A discussion on the poem ‘A  POISON TREE’

Let’s discuss the poem you need to study – “A Poison Tree” by William Blake

A Poison Tree

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine.
And he knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

William Blake

Form and Structure-This poem has been written in four quatrains. This is one of the simplest poetic forms.  Each stanza has a pair of rhyming couplets- aabb. (friend-end; foe-grow; fears-tears; smiles-wiles; night-bright; shine-mine; stole-pole; see-tree).

Language-Overall, the vocabulary is simple. Most of the words in the first stanza are mono syllables. All the lines in the first stanza begin with “I”. This emphasizes that there is something personal and told from an individual point of view.

Understanding the poem:

Stanza 1 opens with how the persona was angry with his friend. He told his friend about his anger and the anger then disappeared. The persona then goes on to describe a scenario when he was angry with his enemy. He did not tell his enemy that he was angry, thus, his anger kept on growing!

In stanza 2, the persona talks more on how his anger grows. He compares his growing anger to a growing plant where he waters the plant with his fears and his tears. However, he did not give it real sunshine. He merely gives smiles and deceitful wiles. A wile is a cunning trick. Here, it suggests that he may be planning some sort of a devious scheme for his enemy- and this deceitful scheme is just like the sunshine for the growing plant.

Stanza 3 describes how the persona’s efforts eventually bore fruit. The fruit is the apple bright. The enemy clearly recognises that the fruit belongs to the persona.

Stanza 4 reveals that the enemy had seen the apple and stole it. The enemy had stolen the apple during the night when it was dark as the “pole” – the North Star was all covered up. Thus, the star was not visible-to guide the enemy out of the danger. The enemy eats the apple and most probably – he dies.

Metaphor-A growing apple tree is an extended metaphor for the growing anger and it shows how destructive anger can be. The title “A Poison Tree” is the central metaphor. The apple has become poisonous as it has been nurtured with anger. In other words, the tree grew with negative emotions. When we stay angry for a long time, we may become “A Poison Tree” (a person full of negative emotions).

 Setting-The persona’s garden. The garden where the apple tree grows. The apple tree that features the apple which lures the enemy.

Symbolism-The apple represents anger. The apple grows large till it ripens. Similarly, anger grows till it becomes vengeance.


Managing Anger:  It is not totally wrong to be angry. However, it is rather important for us to know how to deal with anger. If we nurture our anger, it might grow and be harmful to us. In this poem, two ways of handling anger were shown with different outcomes. In the first scenario, the anger disappeared but in the second the anger grew into something aggressive and negative.

 Importance of Communication:  As shown in the poem, if the persona had communicated with his enemy, his anger would have been controlled. However, his refusal to communicate has allowed anger to become something that is very destructive. Therefore it is often better if we can communicate with people on the issues that is bugging us. The poet indirectly is trying to persuade his readers to talk about their anger. We can talk about it not only with our friends but with our enemies too. If we talk, the anger might just reduce and it might just ease our troubles. In turn, it will prevent us from causing hurt unto others.

 Moral Value

The poem tells us about the disastrous consequences of one’s own failure to communicate with another person.


The persona could be intentionally helping his anger to grow by refusing communication with his enemy or perhaps he is unconsciously helping his anger to grow as his tears are actually tears of sorrow. This poem was written by William Blake and published in 1794 as part of his “Songs of Experience” collection. The poem describes repressed feelings of anger towards someone where the emotions lead him to murder. Perhaps the poet is exploring the darker side of human beings. When the enemy eats the fruit, he dies and the poet seems to be happy. The apple is the symbolic representation of his unreleased anger. The anger that blossoms into a poisoned fruit. We should ponder on whether this anger has attracted the enemy and in turn has lured him into the garden. Perhaps the enemy has unresolved issues with the owner of the garden and that is the reason for him to try and trespass the garden with the intention of settling the issues – in this case- by stealing the apple that has eventually poisoned him. Looking at another angle; considering the fact that William Blake was a religious man, with biblical reference- Adam and Eve was told not to eat the apple. Eating from the tree was the first sin! Perhaps, that’s the reason for Blake to use an apple tree as his central metaphor.


Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
Rode the six hundred.
Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sab’ring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre stroke
Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!
-Lord Alfred Tennyson

Stanza 1

The poem starts with the three words, “Half a league” repeated three times. It sets up a rhythm -like a military march. A league is an old-fashioned measurement of distance that’s approximately equivalent to 5 kilometres. So, half a league is about two and half kilometres. The phrase “the valley of Death” tends to make us feel a little scared and uncertain. Thus far, it tells us that someone is covering a certain distance in a scary place. Next, we learn that there are six hundred people, and that they are riding, probably on horseback.  In Line 5 –the phrase “Forward, the Light Brigade! – it seems that someone is commanding; shouting out a military order to move forward. We don’t know who this person is, but he introduces the heroes of this poem, the fearless men of the Light Brigade! A “brigade” is a way of dividing up an army. They are “cavalry” soldiers, meaning they are riding on horseback. They are called “Light” to separate them from the “Heavy Brigade,” another kind of cavalry unit at the time. The end of stanza 1 shows that the brigade has been ordered into the valley, and they’re riding in, even though they know that guns and “Death” are waiting for them.

Stanza 2

Stanza 2 begins with the order “Forward, the Light Brigade!” repeated. The speaker really wants us to focus on those words, on the command to move forward. The men are being sent to death. It makes us pause and think about why these brave men are being sent into “the valley of Death.” Line 10 – Was there a man dismayed?- shows that perhaps now the readers are trying to get a peek into the heads of these soldiers, trying to imagine how it must feel to charge toward death. In this poem –“to be dismayed” means to lose your courage, to be overcome by terror. The word “not,” in line 11 implies that these men do not feel discouraged at all. They’re ready to do their job. Lines 13-15 – “Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die”- sum up all of the honest, humble heroism of these men. They’re just doing their job. The last two lines “Into the valley of Death”; “Rode the six hundred” are the same as the last two lines in the first stanza. It emphasizes the main action of the poem, which is these men riding to their death.

Stanza 3

The soldiers are surrounded by enemy- cannon, left, right, and front. It’s almost as if we are right there, turning our heads right, left, and forward, and seeing cannon everywhere. A “volley” from a cannon is just a round of firing. Referring to lines 25-instead of “Into the valley of Death,” now the men are riding “Into the mouth of hell. It’s one more way of emphasizing how bad the valley is and how brave these men are.

Stanza 4

Stanza four begins with “Flashed all their sabres bare”. The soldiers were riding through this storm of bullets, on horses, carrying swords- “sabres,” to be exact. Sabres is a kind of curved sword a cavalrymen would have carried. Focusing on these old-fashioned sabres is another way to point out the desperate heroism of the Light Brigade, and also a way to connect them to English warriors of the past. The main action so far, the charge, has gone as far as it can. Now the soldiers have to turn back where they came from. Some have died. The phrase “Not the six hundred” is the first hint of the terrible casualties the Light Brigade has suffered. The poem has been a little grim, but now it starts to become really mournful, like it was meant for a funeral.

Stanza 5

Lines 39-43 lines are almost an exact repeat of the beginning of the third stanza (lines 18-22). The only change is in line 41. The cannon that were in front of them are now behind them, which means that the Light Brigade has turned around and leaving the enemy behind them. The return trip is just as deadly and terrifying, it’s just turned around. Line 44 – While horse and hero fell, emphasizes the loss of life. This stanza ends with the words “six hundred” just like all the others did. In this case, though, the tone is much darker, and the final image we get is the remnants of the Light Brigade moving back across the field.

Stanza 6

Stanza six begins with “When can their glory fade?” –comes in like the sound of a trumpet. It is the Light Brigade’s desperate, “wild” charge that the speaker wants us to remember. This poem is spreading the word, telling us that we should “wonder” at this incredible display of bravery. The poem ends with a couple of commands: Honour the charge they made!; Honour the Light Brigade; Noble six hundred! The speaker orders us, to respect and remember these noble war heroes.


The purpose of this poem is to make the courage of these British soldiers immortal. This is an example of poetry having a real effect on how we remember history.  Basically, the six hundred horsemen of the Light Brigade are ordered to charge forward into a valley, with guns on all sides. They encounter their Russian enemies, attack them and then retreat down the valley. It is important to note that at the time, the British were fighting the Russian Empire in the Crimean War. Tennyson read a newspaper story about the Battle of Balaclava where a small group of British soldiers on horseback (called the Light Brigade) made a desperate attack, and suffered heavy casualties. Tennyson was so moved by what he read that wrote this poem, which has turned into one of the most famous poems ever about the tragic heroism of soldiers.

Sad I Ams

Sad I Ams
I am
the ring
from an empty Cola can
the scrapings
from an unwashed porridge pan
the severed arm
of last year’s Action man.

I am
the envelope
on which the gum is gone
the Sellotape
where you can’t find the end
the toothless stapler, springless bulldog clip
the dried up liquid paper
that mars instead of mends
the stamped addressed reply
that you forgot
to send.

I am
the battery in which no charge is left
the starter motor which remains inert
the tyre on which the tread is worn
the sparking plug which shows no sign of spark
the carburettor chocked by bits of dirt
the chromium trim from which the shine has gone.

I am
a garden
overgrown with weeds
a library book
that no one ever reads
a stray
which no one thinks to feed
the piece of good advice
which no one seems to need.

– By Trevor Millum


In the first stanza, the poet is describes himself as the things that are usually thrown away because they have become useless to the owner:-the ring of the can is usually thrown away after we open the can; the scrapings should be cleaned when the pans are put to wash –nobody wants to keep the dirt on the pan! And finally -when the toy’s arm is broken- the ‘action’ figure toy becomes distorted- next year a new action figure would become more popular.
In the second stanza, the poet is now describing used things that cannot be used any longer. They are: the envelope where the gum doesn’t stick- perhaps it is an old envelope; Sellotape that is old or not marked where the end is impossible to find; stapler that has no place to attach the bullets- thus, it has become not functional; spring -less bulldog clip: one without spring would not be able to function; liquid paper that is dry; and an envelope that he had already put the stamp on but had forgotten to post.
Similar to the earlier stanzas; the third stanza also describes things that have become useless to the owner. They are however, concerned with parts of the car: Battery that needs to be charged- it shows that the car cannot be driven; starter motor which does not work; tyre has no threads anymore- it becomes dangerous to drive with such tyres as they have no grip; Spark plug that does not work-the engine of the car would not start if the plugs do not function; carburettor that needs to be serviced before it can be used and chromium plating which is not shining!
In the final or fourth stanza, the poet describes things that are not paid attention to such as: the garden that is not taken care of which is full of weeds- which implies that no one has cleaned the garden; a library book which is probably outdated that no one wants to borrow it; an animal such as a stray dog that no one takes care of and finally good advice that no one heeds.

Let’s discuss the poem –“Newsbreak”  by Max Fatchen

News Break

Now why so loving, darling,
And why the sudden kiss?
You’d help me with some little jobs?
For goodness sake, what’s this?

Your face is clean for once, dear,
Your clothes without a crease.
You saved your luncheon money?
Will wonders never cease?

No dropping of your school books,
No shrieking, childish treble.
Today you are a lamb, love,
Where yesterday a rebel.

But surely you’re some stranger,
No rage or hullabaloo.
Come closer, let me look, dear,
Can this be REALLY you?

Now were you struck by lightning
Or were you stunned at sport?
Ah … now I see the reason.
You’ve brought your school report!
– Max Fatchen

In the first stanza, the parent is wondering why his child’s behaviour is suddenly so loving.The child even gives a kiss to the parent and the parent is bewildered that the child offers help. The parent desperately wants to know the reason for the sudden change.

In the second stanza, the parent is surprised to see the child’s face neat and tidy. The child’s clothes are also neat as if it has been ironed and has no crumples. The parent is also shocked to know that the child did not spend his money for lunch that day as he usually does. The parent is astonished with all the surprises that he is getting and thinks when it would all end.

In the next stanza or stanza 3, the parent is surprised that his child did not drop his school books as he returns home. The child does not scream or show an outburst of anger. The parent praises the child for his good behaviour that day as the child acts like a gentle lamb when just the previous day, the child was going against his parent.

In stanza 4, the parent feels as if the child is a stranger to him – like a new person.

The child does not show any anger or any emotional disturbance. Therefore, the parent asks the child to come closer so that he can see his child better as he wonders if that is really his child.

That brings us to the last stanza, stanza five, where he also wonders whether his child had been struck by lightning or injured during sports that has made him temporarily unable to react. Finally, he understands the real reason for the change as he noticed that the child has brought his school progress report.

Point Of View

The first person point of view is used


The setting is in a house.


Honesty is the best policy – We should be honest with our parents. We must tell them the truth so that we can gain respect and trust from them. Without trust, life would be miserable. Parents will become suspicious in everything we do. This would lead to arguments and lack of trust. It is more effective if the child behaves in honest and productive ways. Learning to be honest and eliminating the need for lies can help to clean up one’s conscience and his relationship with others

Moral Value

Honesty – It is a very important virtue. Speak from your heart and tell the truth. Do not be bothered even though it would make you feel bad. People respect honesty, even when the truth is uncomfortable.


The persona is surprised and astonished with the child’s behaviour. The poem creates a reflective mood as the persona compares the child’s past and present behaviour. Overall, it is light-hearted and a little humorous.


The poet uses metaphor to describe the behaviour of the child. ‘Today you’re a lamb’ which shows innocence and obedience when the child is compared to a lamb; and ‘Where yesterday a rebel’ which shows disobedience and defiance when the child is said to be a rebel (lines 11 and 12)

Structure, Style and Language

The poem consists of 5 stanzas with four lines and the rhyme scheme is ‘a, b, c, b’.  The style is simple and direct. The language and choice of words used is easy to understand as we can relate it to what a child does.

The Title

News Break means reporting something that is unusual. The title is used to indicate that the boy is doing something unusual by showing a change in his behaviour.


The words “News Break” are usually associated to important events in one’s life. In this poem, the child is afraid to tell the parent about his result. Instead of telling the parent, he started to behave differently by being nice to make up to the bad news. The child realises that his report card may not please the parent. Hence, he tries to be extra nice so that the parent will not be angry. The poem demonstrates what a small child has to do just to please his parents before the parents take any action against him. He also tells us the fear he is undergoing when things do not turn out as they are supposed to. The poet has observed the trauma a child faces before he hands over his progress report to his parents.  The job of the poet is to voice the actions of the small child to gain credit from his parents so that there would be no shelling from their parents.

Let’s read the poem-

The Living Photograph


Let’s read the poem-
The Living Photograph

My small grandmother is tall there,
straight-back, white broderie anglaise shirt,
pleated skirt, flat shoes, grey bun,
a kind, old smile round her eyes.
Her big hand holds mine,
white hand in black hand.
Her sharp blue eyes look her own death in the eye

It was true after all; that look.
My tall grandmother became small.
Her back round and hunched.
Her soup forgot to boil.
She went to the awful place grandmothers go.
Somewhere unknown, unthinkable.

But there she is still,
in the photo with me at three,
the crinkled smile is still living, breathing.
                                                                                            -Jackie Kay




Understanding the poem:

Stanza 1 tells us that in the photograph, grandmother looks “tall’ although she is supposed to be ‘small’.  Her grandmother is still youthful and has a “straight-back”.  She is wearing a “white broderie anglaise shirt” and a “pleated skirt” which shows that she is a woman of class, upper or middle. She is a kind and loving person. “Her big hand holds mine, white hand in black hand”-Perhaps, the writer and her grandmother come from different ethnic background. The persona’s grandmother was a very brave person as she was not afraid of death – “Her sharp blue eyes look her own death in the eye.” Note that the poet used the present tense to describe her grandmother.

In stanza 2, the persona refers to her grandma in past tense when describing her actual state before dying.  Her grandmother began to grow older and develop a hunch back.  She had become forgetful as dementia sets in – “Her soup forgot to boil” before she died – “She went to the awful place grandmothers go.”  Perhaps as a young child, the persona didn’t understand what that place was, it was just “unknown” and “unthinkable”.

Stanza 3 describes how the poet wants to remember her grandmother. The memory of her grandmother will definitely live on but she doesn’t want to remember her as old and senile, but as how her grandmother was in the photo with her when she was only three years old. She will always be remembered with her smile. Note that the present tense is used once again.


Language and Style

The language is clear and easy to understand. The Style is simple and direct to the point. There isn’t any clear rhyme scheme.


Tone and Mood

The tone heads towards a sense of strong family relationships. There is a lot of thought and love felt in the poem.

Point of View

The persona uses the words ‘my’ and ‘me’. Thus, it is in the first person point of view.



The photograph symbolises the closeness between the grandmother and the persona. It highlights the feelings of the persona towards her grandmother.




Positive image people create in remembrance of a departed person.  Just like the persona we remember our dearly departed persons by the great things about them. The persona wants to remember her grandma as how she was in the photo, not the days before she died.  When our loved ones die, we no longer see the ugly side of a person. We forget and forgive all their shortcomings, when they die.
Coping with grief and loss.  One excellent way to cope with grief and loss is to cling on the good memories of a person, instead of remembering the bad.  The persona coped with grief for the loss of her grandma by keeping it in her heart that although her grandma is not with her anymore physically, she is still alive in her heart. She celebrates her grandmother’s life.


Moral Value

We must appreciate close family members while they are still alive. The poem teaches us that we must spend time with our loved ones because when they are gone all that will be left are the memories of the time spent together.



The poet, Jackie Kay, is half Scottish, half Nigerian, and she was adopted by a Scottish family.  The persona could be the poet Ms Jackie Kay herself, hence the “white hand in black hand”. The poet says that her grandmother is tall in the photo but later became ‘small’ as at the time the photo was taken her grandmother was younger. Her back was straight. Thus, she seemed taller. It could also be because the writer was very young at the time -about three years old as mentioned in the last stanza.  As her grandmother grew older, her back became ‘round and hunched’. Therefore, she appeared ‘small’.  Note that although the grandma is dead, she refers to her in the present tense.  This shows that she is alive in her heart, and that the state of her grandma in the photo is how she wants to remember her. In the first stanza, the grandmother is strong and healthy in the photograph while in the second stanza the grandmother is older and ill. In stanza 2, the grandmother is described in the past tense, this also shows that the persona is over the tragedy; and her grandma is now dead. Overall, the poem is about how a photograph immortalises a person.  This is shown in the poem where she will always be remembered by the persona with the photograph although the grandmother is dead.


This poem was written by Marzuki Ali in the Malay Language and later translated. Marzuki Ali was born in 1945 in Terengganu. He is actively involved in Malaysian and Indonesian theatres. He began to involve in poetry writing in the 1970s. His poems mainly centred on patriotism, the changing environment and the wonders of his hometown.

Let’s study the poem.

A Fighter’s Lines


I am old and worn

and have lost all my strength


and the history of the fight for independence

have forced sacrifices

that know no name

or life


from the wheelchair of the rest of my days

I, body and energy crushed

see and cannot do much

these times are too big a challenge

for the remnants of my crippled years

the net of deceit spread everywhere

disturbs me


In the name of justice

Wake up and form ranks sons of our ancestor

Be brave

And erect a wall of people

Stand up heirs of our freedom


I have no more voice

It is you now who should speak!

                                                 Marzuki Ali

This poem talks about the feeling of a retired soldier who had fought for the country’s independence. This poem is looking from the first person point of view who is a retired soldier as the poem uses the pronoun I , as seen in the stanza 1. In this stanza, the persona says that he is old and worn and has no energy. From this Stanza, we know that the persona once had become a soldier and he had suffered a lot to free the country from invaders. Many lives had been sacrificed to fight for our independence.  At that time, they fought with all of their will.

Consequently, he is wheelchair bound. Due to the loss of energy and the fact that he is now old, he has enough energy to only be able to sit on the wheelchair. This is portrayed in Stanza 2. After years of independence, the persona sees that the people are trying to destroy themselves by indulging into the world full of lies. Now, there is nothing much he can do as how he did before- protect the country. This is shown in the lines:

 see and cannot do much

 these times are too big a challenge

 for the remnants of my crippled years

 the net of deceit spread everywhere

 disturb me

In stanza 3, the persona calls out to the younger generation to stand up and protect the country. Due to the spreading of lies, he now urges new generation to speak out their opinions and fight for their freedom. He tells us in order to fight for our freedom, first we have to be united, ‘erect a wall of people’ and fight for the sake of our nation’s harmony.


Our ancestors worked very hard for independence. Many died for the country. In the midst of struggling for independence, he was injured and now he is wheelchair bound. He was strong then. However, the challenges facing the country are far greater than before. He is unable to fight it now. He has no more power to control or change anything although he has a strong will. Due to his strong will and in the spirit of patriotism, he urges the youngsters to see the truth and not drown in sea of lies. He stresses here that if we, as the younger generation cannot find the way to stop the dishonesties and lies we are putting our country’s fate in danger as this dishonesties can actually shake the stability of our country. As the persona feels helpless, he wants the younger generation to come forward and fight in the name of justice.


In this poem, there are two settings. First is in an independent country- independent of colonial rule and any foreign control. This is shown by the line, ‘and the history of the fight for independence have forced sacrifices that know no name or life.’ The word ‘history’ tells us that the persona is reflecting the past. The second setting is an old man sitting on a wheelchair inside his abode- home where he sits and ponders on the day’s problems. This is shown in Stanza 2 (Line 1), ‘from the wheelchair of the rest of my days’.


The important theme in this poem is patriotism. The persona’s experience of being a soldier; fighting with the enemies and going through hardships has made him a person who loves his country. But now he is old and disabled and cannot do much to free his country from current challenges. Due to his patriotism he cannot bear to see the country sink in the sea of lies, he urges the young to fight for it. He urges the younger generation to unite in spite of their differences and speak out the inequalities and dishonesties in the community so much so that the freedom retains.


The persona voices out his hopes through various tones. There are three different tones in the poem. In Stanzas 1 and 2, the persona enhances the tone of frustration as he shares his disabilities and weariness of not being able to fight for the country anymore. They are shown through the line, ‘I am old and worn’. Apart from that, the line ‘from the wheelchair of the rest of my days ‘, stresses his disability and leads him to feel frustrated. He shows the tone of disappointment as he talks about the deceits that have spread everywhere as what he says in the line, ‘the net of deceit spread everywhere disturbs me’. He also feels disappointed as he and his friends have fought so hard but now people themselves are creating problems due to greed and deceit. His tone changes dramatically as in Stanzas 3 and 4, he goes from frustration and disappointment to hopefulness.  He eagerly urges the new generation to stand up and rid of their fear of voicing out their opinions as stated in the line, ‘In the name of justice wake up and form ranks sons of our ancestor’ and ‘Be brave’. At the same time, he also stresses on the needs for the younger generation to be united and seek for their freedom as he clearly states in his lines, ‘And erect a wall of people’ and ‘Stand up heirs of our freedom’.


A few symbols are highlighted in the poem. First is the ‘wheelchair’ that connotes disability. The wheelchair symbolises the sacrifices for the country-the hardships he went through for the sake of achieving the country’s independence. Although, he is now wheelchair bound, he still has the will and determination to awaken the younger generation from their long sleep on how important it is to retain the independence achieved from the sacrifices made by the older generation like him. Another symbol in the poem is ‘a wall of people’. It symbolises unity of the people. In this poem, it refers to a need for the younger generation to unite themselves regardless of race, skin colour or background to speak and not to be influenced by the deceits being spread. It is also important for the younger generation to erect a wall of people to retain the independence achieved.


One major literary device used in this poem is metaphor.  A metaphor is comparison made between two things without the use of words such as ‘like’ or ‘as’. In this poem, we can see there are two examples of metaphor. In Stanza 2 (Line 6), the persona uses ‘the net of deceit’ where he voices out problems encountered by the younger generation. The modern generation deceives each other and how the deceit is being spread- it is widespread just like a fishing net that spreads out when cast into the sea. The next metaphor is as in the Stanza 3 (Line 4), ‘a wall of people’ where the persona feels that the people need to be united and become like the concrete wall to counter any challenges met.


Moral Values

Whether we are young or old, we must fight for our country. We may be physically handicapped but we can still contribute as we can be alert mentally. We must value the issues of human rights that our ancestors have fought for.


The poem implied that our country Malaysia comprises a variety of races, religions and beliefs. Dishonesties and lies can be the viruses that could destroy our unity and peace. The new generation is urged to form a wall of unity regardless of our differences and stand together as a family to retain our freedom. Apart from that, to retain our country’s independence, we must be brave to uphold justice. We must be brave to seek the truth and only then we can make a path to a better future.


The Poet-

Hugh Doston Carberry was born July 12, 1921, the son of sir John Carberry, a former Chief Justice of Jamaica, and Lady Georgina Carberry, in Montreal, Canada. He came to Jamaica when he was an infant and spent most of his life there. He was was Clerk to the Houses of Parliament from 1969-1978 and a member of the commonwealth Parliamentary Association. He was appointed Judge of the Jamaican court of appeal in 1978 and served for a decade. H. D. Carberry died on June 28, 1989.

Let’s study the poem.


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.






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. 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. The fruit trees blossom and the bushes are full of bees. The tall grass sways gently in the breeze. As for the buttercups, they cover the ground and look like yellow stars. It is indeed a beautiful sight. This is a poem that really sums up the fact that seasons do not make a difference in the islands.


In the first ten lines the poet tells about his homeland which is Jamaica. He rejoices the beauty of this island although Jamaica has no seasonal changes. Jamaica’s climate is hot and wet throughout the year. The days of golden sunshine are glorious and magnificent. There are many cane fields in Jamaica thus sugar is one of the main exports in this country.

The poet then goes on to tell us his favourite time – days when the flowers of mango trees and logwood blossom. He uses imagery of sound and smell to illustrate abundance of life and activity in the bushes when the ‘sound of bees and the scent of honey’ add to the beauty of Jamaica. He describes the fields filled with lovely yellow buttercups. All these take place when the rains stops.




The setting is clearly Jamaica. Nature is described through the description of weather being hot and wet. The poet also uses other elements of nature such as trees, bushes, flowers, and fruits to portray nature as alive and bountiful. The weather is portrayed as bright and sunny with flowers blooming. If the weather gets bad and turns wet with its heavy downpours and strong wind, it is said that all will eventually pass. The poet shares his enthusiasm and gratitude and appreciation for nature as the end of the poem.




There are a few themes in the poem. Firstly, we must celebrate nature. However we always remain humble. We cannot take things for granted. Nature is wonderful and we should admire it. However, its power has no limits and can be unpredictable. We see this when weather changes in a wink of an eye, calm at one moment and the other, showing off its destructive force. The same weather can be quiet and stagnant and revitalizing the earth with growth and beauty in the next. 

            Secondly, the themes of the natural cycle of life and the many phases of life are explored. The poet’s central message is the beauty of nature. It is natural to have good moments at one time and bad moments in the next. There is life and there is death. Usually when the struggle is over, we will see new life blooming in front of us.

            Finally, there is the theme of appreciating one’s country. There are ups and downs everywhere. The beauty and goodness of one’s country should be appreciated.




            The tone is definitely carefree and light hearted. The poet writes in a very relaxed manner as he appreciates the beauty of nature. It portrays a feeling of happiness.




“The gold sun” symbolises the summer and warmth. It makes people feel comfortable as there is light and brightness.  Another symbol is the ‘rain’. The rain symbolises the winter time. It is cold and wet. In addition, ‘buttercups’ can be a symbol of beauty.


Literary Devices

Imagery is dominant in the poem. Imagery of sight such as “buttercups have paved the earth with yellow stars” allows readers to visualise the colourful nature. Words related to colours and light are used to help the readers visualise the beauty of nature.

Imagery of sound is shown through “the swish of the water in the gullies, “rain beats like bullet on the roofs and “the sound of the bees.”

The “scent of honey” is an example of the imagery of taste.  The imagery of smell is shown through  “The mango and logwood blossom”

            Personification is also used effectively and this is shown through “the tall grass sways and shivers to the slightest breath of air”.

There is also contrast in the poem, for example “the gold sun shines” and the magnificent “lush green cane fields”.  


Moral Values

We should appreciate what we have in our own country. Although Jamaica does not have the four seasons as some other countries experience, things can be as beautiful and in fact better. There is no harsh winter season to bear, for example. Thus, this brings us to the next moral value that teaches us not to long for what we do not have. This will be a waste of time and we may end up being unhappy waiting when we could have rejoiced what we already have.

Apart from that, we should appreciate our homeland. It is usually the place where we are most comfortable in as the saying goes “Home sweet home”. It is definitely the likely place that we actually feel safe and calm.

Finally we should appreciate the beauty of nature.



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.

The author of the poem is Valerie Bloom who is a poet and a novelist. She was born inJamaicain 1956 and later moved toEnglandin 1979. She writes poetry in English and Jamaican patois for all ages and has performed her work throughout the world, with many television and radio appearances. She believes that “part of the beauty of poetry is the music in the words, and a vital part of music is often the poetry in the lyrics”.

          The River

The River’s a wanderer,

A nomad, a tramp,

He doesn’t choose one place

To set up his camp.

The River’s a winder,

Through valley and hill

He twists and he turns,

He just cannot be still.

The River’s a hoarder,

And he buries down deep

Those little treasures

That he wants to keep.

The River’s a baby,

He gurgles and hums,

And sounds like he’s happily

Sucking his thumbs.

The River’s a singer,

As he dances along,

The countryside echoes

The notes of his song.

The River’s a monster

Hungry and vexed,

He’s gobbled up trees

And he’ll swallow you next.

                                                                                                – Valerie Bloom


The River is about the many characterestics of a river. The river is a wanderer where he moves from one place to another.  He does not stay still and is always moving. He is also a winder where he twists and turns or meanders. He is also a hoarder or a collector where he keeps things deep down in his river bed. Sometimes, he behaves like a baby when he is happily flowing along. At times, he is a singer as seen through the happy sounds of the water. Finally, he is also a monster and can devour trees.

Each stanza describes the river in a particular way. Therefore, we are able to name the stanzas accordingly:

Stanza One- The river is a wanderer

The river is always moving or in motion. It is said to be a wanderer, a nomad and a tramp. This comparison shows that the river does not camp or position itself in one place.

Stanza Two- The river is a winding entity

The river’s journey is a winding journey as it flows through valleys and hills. It is said to be winding because it avoids hard objects that stand in its way.  It keeps going although the route it has to take is winding.

Stanza Three- The river is a hoarder/collector

Along its journey, the river collects and stores many things. It collects everything that stands in its way and is easily picked up from the surface. These things are sometimes buried in the river bed over a long time.

Stanza Four- The river is a baby

The sounds that the river makes are compared to the sounds that a baby makes. The river gurgles and hums. The sound is just like how a baby sucks his thumbs happily. It makes happy, merry sounds as it flows.

Stanza Five- The river is a singer

Sometimes the river is like an entertainer. The happy feeling is felt as it flows while singing and dancing. The echoes of its songs can be heard as they pass through the village.

Stanza Six The river as a monster

The river is not happy all the time. Sometimes it can be hungry and angry just like a monster. It can even swallow trees and would not hesitate to take away your life.



Man and Life

Life is a quest where we search for stability, contentment and happiness. It also portrays the challenges we face in life. We all have various challenges in our lives. There is also anger and destruction.         



We must have goals in life. Then we will know how to plan our journey to achieve our goals. We must also value and appreciate life’s experiences. Our experiences teach us many things in life. Thus, we must remember and appreciate people that we meet in life. We usually learn from each other.

It is good to share happiness with others. It will make us happier. Sometimes we encounter problems. We must face problems in life positively. Then it will be easier to solve them and sometimes we learn a lot from it. However, we should not destroy other people in the process to achieve our goals.

           We must protect the environment. We must learn how delicate the planet is and how we have a responsibility to take care of the planet so the air we breathe, the water we drink and the animals are all protected.



The poem consists of six stanzas. Each stanza is made up of 4 lines (a quatrain). The rhyme scheme is “a, b, c, b”. The second line ends with the same sounding word of the fourth line. In stanza 1, the word ‘tramp’ (line 2) rhymes with ‘camp’ (line 4). In stanza 2, the word ‘hill’ (line 2) rhymes with ‘still’ (line 4). In stanza 3, the word ‘deep’ (line 2) rhymes with ‘keep’ (line 4). In stanza 4, the word ‘hums’ (line 2) rhymes with ‘thumbs’ (line 4).  In stanza 5, the word ‘along’ (line 2) rhymes with ‘song’ (line 4). In stanza 6, the word ‘vexed’ (line 2) rhymes with ‘next’ (line 4). The language is simple and easy to understand. It is written as a description of the movement of a river. The words used helps to create clear images for everyone. The comparison of images helps for a better understanding. The poet has used a form to depict the subject. The poem is in a visual presentation of a river flowing.


A symbol, in the simplest sense is anything that stands for or represents something else beyond it—usually an idea conventionally associated with it. For example, sunrise may represent new beginnings or the beginning of a new day. Other typical examples include the scales to symbolize justice and a dove for peace. Things get a little harder, though, when a poet creates a new symbol. In this poem, the river itself represents life.


An object is given a human quality. The river is personified as a man as he travels through life. The river is a ‘wanderer who behaves like a ‘nomad’, a ‘tramp’, a ‘singer’ who also dances or a ‘monster’ who gobbles up other things.




A metaphor is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between two unlike things that actually have something important in common. The comparisons given to the river provides a picture in our minds. The river is a ‘wanderer’, a ‘nomad’, a ‘tramp’, a ‘singer’ and finally a ‘monster’.


A word is repeated for emphasis. The main subject is the river. The word ‘river’ is repeated throughout the poem.


Words that imitate the sounds described. The river babbles and murmurs as it flows

-‘gurgles and hums’

Capital Letter

This is used to give a word emphasis. River is emphasised in this poem and can be identified as possessing human qualities thus capitalized as a proper noun (names of people are capitalised)


The poem personified the river as something that is living. It describes the attitudes of the river and the things that the river wants. The poem is also described as something that has both the good and the evil qualities. Therefore, it shows that the river is just like a human that can be good sometimes and at the same time can have evil qualities due to certain reasons. The poem also shows the river which is personified to be able to be as what it chooses to be. The river decides according to circumstances whether it wants to be a baby or a monster.

Man is like a river. In the journey of his life, he becomes a traveler searching for the best. He decides his future as he goes to wherever and finds whatever he wants. He gains a lot of knowledge and experience along the way. Everyone around him feels his happiness. Sometimes, however, if man does not get or achieve what he wants he would show the evil side of him. He will fear no one and will tend to hurt others. Therefore, after some time, he has to settle down.

The poem, “In The Midst Of Hardship” was originally written by Latiff Mohidin in Malay. It is translated by Salleh Ben Joned. Latiff Mohidin was born in 1941. He isMalaysia’s most celebrated living artist and poet and is considered a national treasure. He did his art training inGermanyat Hochschule fur Bildende Kunste, Atelier La Courriere inFranceand Pratt Graphic Centre inAmerica. He shaped the development of art practise and literature through his extraordinary vision.

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

They 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

                                                – Latiff Mohidin


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.



The elders returned to their home in the early morning. When they return home, they approach the kitchen stove to warm themselves. Their clothes were very wet and torn. Although they had wounds and scratches on their hands and legs, they were not in low spirits. Dawn refers to early morning. The poet uses brows to tell about the expression on the face-“but on their brows”, “there was not a sign of despair”.It means by looking at one’s brows we can make assumptions whether the person is unhappy or happy.


They were out in the flood the whole day and night. They were wading among dead bodies and tiny chips of tree barks in the floodwater. They were also worried of their son’s missing albino buffalo. They searched desperately for their son’s albino buffalo. After braving the dreadful flood for the last 24 hours, they still cannot find it. The strong bond between family members is shown here.


They were born into poverty and difficulty, but they do not complain about their sufferings. Instead, they sit in the kitchen, cracking jokes while smoking cigarettes. Despite all the adversities and suffering, the people in the poem do not complain or lament on their misfortunes. Life goes on with their daily chores of preparing food and habit of rolling their cigarette leaves. They are still able to joke with one another.


The setting of the poem is in the house and a flooded village.


The theme is not the hardship itself but how the family handles it. The lines ‘but on their brows’- ‘there was not a sign of despair’ show their optimism. They returned home at dawn in soaking-wet clothes that is all torn-up and with bruises and cuts all over but, their face did not show any sign of hopelessness and despair that would normally be expected. These two lines further accentuate the point on optimism of this family.

Another major theme is love in the family. Love binds them together. This is shown when they searched desperately for their son’s albino buffalo.




Moral Values

We should learn to accept problems in life with a positive outlook. It means that although we are facing problems, we should not complain but instead we must attempt to face it courageously and solve whatever problems in hand. Failure is part of growing up. We should not despair in the face of failure.

Point of View

  • Third person point of view.

Language, Style and Literary Devices

Language is simple and easy to understand. The style is simple with no rhyming scheme. There are no full-stops in the poem. This is shows that there is no end for hardship.

Imagery – Gives picture of poet’s thoughts

  • soaky clothes torn
  • limbs marked by scratches
  • legs full of wounds
  • bloated carcasses
  • tiny chips of tree barks
  • rolling cigarette leaves


  • albino buffalo – symbol of something that should treasured
  • horrendous flood – symbol of terrible trials
  • stove – symbol of warmth and sustenance
  • bloated carcasses – symbol of death and decay


This poem tells of the hardship that a family in a village faces after a big flood. It takes a lot of courage and strength to see the silver lining and to move on after that. Yet, that is exactly what this family is doing. They’re spending time together, enjoying each other’s company and they are actually grateful for what they still have instead of what was lost. As we can read in the poem – they returned home without finding the buffalo but they did not seem to be really bothered by it. They accept fate as it is but more importantly, it portrays how they are different from many people who are materialistic. Although the Albino buffalo is a rare species of the buffalo family, the family in the poem is not very worried that their precious buffalo is missing. This poem wants to convey the hardship that they endured and even though they saw many dead animals floating because of the flood, they were still searching for the buffalo. It is important to know that they did not complain and did not lose hope as they were used to difficult life. They refuse to let it ruin their day and their spirit. The main concern is that they did try to find it as the buffalo belongs to their son. This shows that they were looking for it as they were concerned for their son’s lost.

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