Now, we will review the poems studied in Form Four to Form Five classes by recalling “What is the poem about?” in the discussions and answering 2 sets of questions per poem according to the SPM exam format. Do try to answer them on your own before you peep into the answers given. All the poems studied in the Upper secondary will be discussed here, they are: “Are you still playing the flute”-by Zurinah Hassan; “Nature” –H. D. Carberry; “In the Midst of Hardship” –by Latiff Mohidin and “He had such Quiet Eyes” -by Bibsy Soenharjo.
Discussion on the poem “Are You Still Playing Your Flute?”
The poet is about a woman’s thoughts about her boy friend who looks more interested in playing the flute which seems to be his passion. He appears to be oblivious to what is happening to his family, relatives and friends. The persona and her boyfriend, the flutist live in two different “worlds” as their lifestyles and the way of thinking are now rather different. In the first stanza, there is a tinge of feeling of being neglected by the flutist. The poet feels that “watching the rain, gazing at the evening rays, collecting dew drops and enjoying the fragrance of the flower” are luxuries of life and all these luxuries can be enjoyed in the rural areas but not in the city where people are ‘unemployed and desperate’, ‘disunited by politics’ and killed ‘mercilessly’ due to various political reasons. The question is whether there is someone who is still playing the flute. In other words is there anyone trying to defend the art and tradition.
Read the poem “Are You Still Playing Your Flute?” and answer the questions.
“Are You Still Playing Your Flute?”
Are you still playing your flute?
When there is hardly time for our love
I am feeling guilty
To be longing for your song
The melody concealed in the slim hollow of the bamboo
Uncovered by the breath of an artist
Composed by his fingers
Blown by the wind
To the depth of my heart.
Are you still playing your flute?
In the village so quiet and deserted
Amidst the sick rice fields
While here it has become a luxury
To spend time watching the rain
Gazing at the evening rays
Collecting dew drops
Or enjoying the fragrance of flowers.
Are you still playing your flute?
The more it disturbs my conscience
to be thinking of you
in the hazard of you
my younger brothers unemployed and desperate
my people disunited by politics
my friend slaughtered mercilessly
this world is too old and bleeding.
By Zurinah Hassan
1. What did the persona mean when she said ‘deserted’?
2. Why is the persona feeling guilty?
3. Why is the question “Are you still playing your flute‟ repeated as the starting line of all the stanzas?
4. In your opinion, is this a romantic poem? Provide reasons for your answer.
1. The villagers have left/migrated to look for jobs in the town/city.
2. Feeling guilty as she is enjoying the music when the nation is plagued with problems
3. This is to stress on the activity as something that should not be done when the nation is facing so much trouble.
4. No, it is not a romantic poem. It is poem that shows the irony between a leisure activity and problems faced by the nation at the same time.
1. How would you describe the persona in the poem?
2. Write one line from the poem that depicts that people are jobless.
3. Provide three phrases that depict the message of cruel realities of a nation in uncertainty of its future.
4. In your own words describe why the poet used the word “sick” to describe the rice fields.
1. a very perceptive and reflective woman.
2. my younger brothers unemployed and desperate
3. my people disunited by politics; my friend slaughtered mercilessly; this world is too old and bleeding.
4. Perhaps the yield is not rewarding/ the harvest is destroyed due to bad weather.
Discussion on the poem “Nature”
The poem describes the weather conditions in Jamaica. It emphasizes that Jamaica does not have the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter. Nevertheless, the weather conditions of golden sunny days and wet rainy days are just as good and are almost similar to the four seasons. It is a descriptive poem about the changing weather. It celebrates the richness of the land’s produce and how alive and abundant Nature is. Through the poem, the poet describes the beauty of the weather in Jamaica. The fruit trees blossom and the bushes are full of bees. The tall grass sways gently in the breeze.This is a poem that really sums up the fact that seasons do not make a difference in the islands.
We must not forget that in the past cane fields in Jamaica were a pit of slavery and forced labour. Now they are free. Perhaps it could be a reason why Jamaicans appreciate and celebrate life. Jamaica embraces its past through expressions such as music, dance, and joyful celebrations. Despite intense political strife and racial divide, the people of Jamaica have maintained the relaxed attitude for which the Caribbean is famous. Jamaicans are proud of who they are and pride themselves on their native culture.
Read the poem ‘Nature’ and answer the questions-
We have neither Summer nor Winter
Neither Autumn nor Spring.
We have instead the days
When the gold sun shines on the lush green canefields-
The days when the rain beats like bullet on the roofs
And there is no sound but thee swish of water in the gullies
And trees struggling in the high Jamaica winds.
Also there are the days when leaves fade from off guango trees’
And the reaped canefields lie bare and fallow to the sun.
But best of all there are the days when the mango and the logwood blossom
When bushes are full of the sound of bees and the scent of honey,
When the tall grass sways and shivers to the slightest breath of air,
When the buttercups have paved the earth with yellow stars
And beauty comes suddenly and the rains have gone.
1. Why do you think H.D.Carberry wrote the poem?
2. List three words related to nature.
3. Which line in the poem ‘Nature’suggests the sense of smell?
4. Based on your knowledge of the poem ‘Nature’, describe a theme in the poem.
1. He wants to celebrate the richness of the land’s produce and how alive and plentiful Nature is.
2. gold sun, rain, trees.
3. The line, “When the bushes are full of the sound of bees and the scent of honey”
4. Appreciating one’s country-Life in one’s country has its share of ups and downs but one must always look at the brighter side of life. In this poem, the poet stresses on his country’s weather being sunny, rainy and windy. The poet states that we must appreciate what we have.
1. In your words describe the weather as depicted in the poem.
2. State one moral value that you have learnt from the poem.
3. Note that the poem ends with the line “and beauty comes suddenly and the rains have gone”. Describe how this bears a resemblance in our life.
4. In the opening lines of the poem, the poet describes the things that are absent. In your opinion, what is the poet trying to convey?
1. There are hot sunny days and cold wet windy and rainy days. It is so pleasant that there is little climate difference between the seasons. Most days are sunny with the gold sun shines on the cane fields. Even on rainy days, it is a beautiful sight.
2. We must appreciate the beauty of nature and not compare our lives with others.
3. This is a big resemblance to our life, as it has been our experience that after bad times, good times will follow and sometimes ever so abruptly.
4. It is to highlight the pleasant climate on the island. It has no extreme weather conditions and seasons do not make a difference in the islands.
Discussion on the poem “In the Midst of Hardship”:
As the title suggest, this poem is trying to convey the hardship that a family in a village is facing after a big flood. In this poem, the poet tells of the situation of a farmer and his family. They only returned at dawn after being out in the floodwater for a day and night after tirelessly looking for their son’s albino buffalo. They are all wet and hurt but they do not show any despair or of losing hope. Although they have been born into a life of hardship, they have never complained. They spend time together, enjoying each other’s company. They are grateful for what they still have instead of what is lost. Now, they are in the kitchen and they joke and talk while preparing to relax with a smoke.
Read the poem “In The Midst Of Hardship” and answer the questions-
“In The Midst Of Hardship”
At dawn they returned home
their soaky clothes torn
and approached the stove their limbs marked by scratches
their legs full of wounds
but on their brows
there was not a sign of despair
The whole day and night just passed
they had to brave the horrendous flood
in the water all the time
between bloated carcasses
and tiny chips of tree barks
desperately looking for their son‟s
albino buffalo that was never found
There were born amidst hardship
and grew up without a sigh or a complaint
now they are in the kitchen, making
jokes while rolling their cigarette leaves
By Latiff Mohidin Translated by Salleh Ben Joned
1. Write down the line which shows that they have been out for long hours?
2. The theme may not be exactly about hardship as implied by the title. What is the theme related to?
3. What does the phrase ‘albino buffalo’ tell you?
4. What value did you learn from the poem? Explain.
1. The line ‘The whole day and night just passed’.
2. Facing hardship with optimism
3. They are in the village as people in the town will not rear buffaloes.
4. Despite the hardship, we must remain resilient and strong. Often, the difficult time is not a permanent one.
1. Why were their clothes “soaky”?
2. Write down the line in the poem which reveals that this incident took place in a village?
3. What does the phrase “bloated carcasses” refer to?
4. In your opinion, what kind of attitude do the last two lines imply? Explain.
1. They were wet
2. ‘desperately looking for their son’s albino buffalo that was never found’
3. Animals killed as they drowned in the flood water.
4. They family was very optimistic- they were making jokes not crying or show signs of despair.
Discussion on the poem “He had Such Quiet Eyes”:
This is a poem about the love of a man and how deceptive in can actually be. A man with seductive, powerful and alluring eyes sometimes melt the heart of a naive, innocent, foolish young lady, who will eventually give her everything to him, devote herself to satisfy his starving lust. In other words, it is a story of a girl who meets a boy and falls in love with him. The boy makes her believe that he loves her very much. The girl gives her everything to the boy and the girl loses everything. Finally the boy leaves her. This poem brings out the concept of the power of the eyes and how, since ages and ages ago up till today, men all around the world are still using the same old trick and women, all over the world still fall for it. Young girls should be prepared to face the ugliness of the real world.
Read the following stanza of He had Such Quiet Eyes and answer the questions.
He Had Such Quiet Eyes
He had such quiet eyes
She did not realise
They were two pools of lies
Layered with thinnest ice
To her, those quiet eyes
Were breathing desolate sighs
Imploring her to be nice
And to render him paradise
If only she’d been wise
And had listened to the advice
Never to compromise
With pleasure-seeking guys
She’d be free from “the hows and whys”
Now here’s a bit of advice
Be sure that nice really means nice
Then you’ll never be losing at dice
Though you may lose your heart once or twice
1. What does the phrase ‘thinnest ice’ imply?
2. In this poem, the poet talks about the betrayal of a young girl’s feelings for a man. She believes in his sincerity to her as he had pleaded to her to surrender to him. Write the two lines depicting this.
3. What is the main theme in this poem?
4. What did you learn from this poem? Explain.
1. Something that is dangerous. When you step on a thin ice, you are likely to fall as the ice breaks or melts.
2. To the young girl, those quiet eyes ‘Were breathing desolate sighs’ and ‘ Imploring her to be nice’
4. We sometimes encounter people who have ill intentions towards us. We should take precaution against them.
1. The phrase “two pools of lies‟ is a metaphor. What does it refer to?
2. Write down two words or phrases from the poem that describe the eyes.
3. Describe in your own words how the girl is being deceived by the eyes.
1. the eyes that are deceiving
2. i)quiet ii) the desolate sighs
3. The man eyes is very deceiving, deep, calm but dangerous, just like a pool in winter. It may look inviting and peaceful to see a still lake, but when you try to walk on the thin ice, it will break and you will drown in the icy cold water.