Sunday, September 14, 2008

Explanation for the poem "Curtain"

A note: I stopped teaching CBSE 5 years ago and I'm out of touch. So I haven't really worked on the explanations and edited them. You might find some of the explanations not up to the mark especially this poem. You will surely find better explanations on the net. One such site recommended by one of the readers which is really good and tailor made for CBSE is http://englishportal12.blogspot.in/?view=mosaic 

The poem deals with the theme of separation, especially between lovers. The background for the poem is the tumultuous times that England and Europe were going through leading to the Second World War.

The first stanza begins with the word ‘Goodbye’ used for parting. This word ends the first stanza and begins the second. The lovers wish each other goodbye and their intertwined (laced) fingers loosen symbolising a gradual break in their relationship. The sense of touch is evoked in this stanza. The warmth of their relationship symbolised by their hand clasp, slowly breaks down and finally becomes cold and distant like the stiff, cold (frosted) flowers of a garden in November. Their separation is felt sharply and piercingly like bullets. For them even darkness, that unites without distinguishing, feels separate and strange.

The second stanza states that their relationship has broken down fully. This is conveyed by the words “There is no touch now” and by comparing their relationship to a wave that has now broken down in the lonely sea of the world. Though there is a possibility of words still to be spoken or for communication, the separation is too great a gulf for this to happen. It is so great that it swiftly out measures time (time makes us gradually forget) and engulfs one’s identity too.
The third stanza pictures the state of separation. It is like the dreamer startled from her sleep, but the vivid image of the dream is lost in the process of waking. It is a state of vagueness about a vivid moment of life. All the senses like taste and sight feel numb. Even feelings have turned cold as denoted by the words ‘clinic heart’ (dead heart). So there is no question of the heart breaking.

The final stanza asks questions about the separation like whether it easy and if there is nothing besides this ‘quiet disaster’; quiet because it is known only to them. The final question is whether there is cause for sorrow because in the final kiss of parting, which is compared to a ‘white murder’ of love relationship, they have become two different people, (two ghosts, two Hamlets, two soliloquies) living in a distant physical and mental world of the future.


If you felt that this information has been useful for you and if you feel inclined to help orphans kindly donate money to the orphanage that my friend runs. First, take a little time to go through its website: 
https://sites.google.com/site/anbuillamsamayanallur/ 

53 comments:

ashib said...

The pome CURTAIN is by HELEN SPALDING-----

Anonymous said...

The Summary is very well return... Kudos to you...

Dr. Shelly Batra, MD said...

Beautifully explained. you are a true lover of english poetry!

Abe Pat said...

thanks for the compliment

Anonymous said...

hello,
I would love to read this poem, but cannot find a copy. Are you able to put it up on you blog or email me a copy?

sortedshelved@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Can you please explain the 'division piles' part and also what is the significance of the question mark after 'engulfs identity ' ?!
Thank you!

jayanthi said...

can u say what poetic device is 'desolate sea' in curtain? expecting an answer asap.

Abe Pat said...

The poetic device used in 'desolate sea' could be transfered epithet. The sea isn't desolate. It has no feelings or emotions. But the lovers perceive it as desolate as they are desolate due to their parting of ways. They transfer their feelings on to an element of nature which is devoid of feelings.

i don't have the text at hand as i don't teach cbse poetry anymore. But i guess 'division piles' means separation or the intensity or degree of separation gets deeper and deeper as time goes by. Probably that is the meaning of piles or piling up. The separation and depression or sorrow is so intense that it seems to swollow or engulf one's identity or personality.

Vignesh said...

This is my favorite poem ever:). Of all the poems I have studied, I only remember this one vividly. A very good summary. Cheers:)

Atharva said...

Hello sir.
Thank you for your grateful explanation to this poem.
you r doing a great job.

Anonymous said...

thnx a lot for ur explaination......it helped me in my 12th prelimns

Parth S Arora said...

ive decided to post d blog on ma fb acc. as it'll alot of ppl

Anonymous said...

your summary's really good..gives a clear explanation for the poem. thanks..it helped me understand the poem better. :)

shefalee said...

Thanks for the summary. If you could elaborate on all the figures of speech used in the poem,especially collocation.
Thanks
Shefalee

Anonymous said...

beautifully explained sir....
thanks a lot!!!
could you please explain the significance of "already" used twice in stanza 1?

Kavita said...

don't you think 'clinic heart' refers to a heart that beats for the sake of beating. It is devoid of any emotion

Abe Pat said...

Hello Kavita,
Your interpretation is certainly meaningful in the context of the poem. Agian I don't have the text with me. So, I'm unable to say anything further.

Anonymous said...

Question: James Russell Lowell lived from 1819 to 1891. The Second World War started in 1939. How is it possible that he could be writing about early stages of Would War 2 when he died before the bombing of Europe began?

Abe Pat said...

Thanks for the question which is a pertinent question indeed. I don't know whether I made a mistake when I wrote this. I vaguely remember seeing this information in the short introduction to the pem given in the text book. I'll have to check this. Anyway the information is wrong. So I need to correct it. Thanks for pointing it out.

neena said...

i am teaching this poem to 12 grade. the intro. certainly speaks abt second world war. the poem beautifully tells abt the mental state of the lovers who have been separated for none of their fault.

Abe Pat said...

Thanks Neena for the info

Abe Pat said...

Actually the poem is by Helen Spalding and not by James Russell Lowell. So probably what I've said is right

Ashib said...

Pat sir,,v alwayz thot ur cnclusionz abt da pomez wer reeli simple 4 our pt of view onli...bt seein da wide respnse ur blog iz gettn,, i feel zo proud dat i cud b ur studnt....
U alwayz usd 2 sey da xplantn wer onli ur persnal pt of view..u nvr gt any proper refrnc.whrevr u chckd der wernt much info...nw u urslf r a refrnc.
Hope u r njoyin ur new studntz.
Regrdin da txt itz posible dat i cn type dwn da pome ,bt it ll take sme tym.coz copyin such a pome wthout mistakez iz necesary 4 ur nd evry1z refrnc..(especiali wn i gt so usd 2 cmputr lingo))
lemme c. Nd THANKz EvRY1 4 ENCURAGING My FAVR8 TEACHR by using hiz blog az ur refrnc.actuali diz blog waz started 4 our refrnc ,jzt in caze sm of uz hd missd da notez sir had givn uz.nw diz iz of gr8r use....... by da way i red ur colg dayz blog, sir.da poemz r da reeli funny n interestin partz.4 da 1zt tym i cud grasp pome meaningz in da 1zt read itzelf...zo simple yet beautful...i neva thot dat artz colg lyf cud alzo b screwd up,evn eng litrature clases.my god.so evn v engg. studntz r lucky itz nt dat boring...nywayz.tc.bye,sir

Anonymous said...

Sir, wonderful explanation. Kudos to you sir. Here, what is the significance of two ghosts, two Hamlets, two soliloquies in the last stanza? what do they mean?

A Voice in the Noise said...

Thank you very much. The symbolism behind these complex lines has been portrayed very clearly. While I could make neither heads nor tails of it when I first read it, your summary has really made things completely lucid.
Thanks

MES 12 G 2010-2011 said...

sir iam going to face 12th board 2011 this time i am able to understand this poeam just because of ur explaination thankz a lot..........

fro DOHA QATAR

Anonymous said...

Hey :)
i guess a lot of people here want the text of the poem. As i have it with me, i'll put it down. hope this helps :D
Curtain
Goodbye.
Incredulously the laced fingers loosen,
Slowly sensation by sensation, from their warm interchange,
And stiffen like frosted flowers in the November garden.

Already division piles emphasis like bullets;
Already the one dark air is separate and strange.

Goodbye.

There is no touch now. The wave has broken
That for a moment charged the desolate sea.
There is a word or two left to be spoken
--yet who would hear it? When so swiftly distance
Out measures time, engulfs identity?

Already like the dreamer startled from sleep
And the vivid image lost even in the waking,
There is no taste now for the shrunken sense to keep,
And these, the dreamer’s eyes, are not alive to weep,
And this, the clinic heart, the dreamer’s is not breaking.

Is it so easy then? Goodbye no more then this
Quiet disaster? And is there a cause for sorrow
That in this small white murder of one kiss
Are born two ghosts, two Hamlets, two soliloquies
Two worlds apart, tomorrow?
-by Helen Spalding

Sahana said...

all ur explanatons are very well writen, sir... hats off to you...

Anonymous said...

sir i would like to add one more thing, that is in the end the murder has been termed as white because there is no actual murder or blood shed here.
This is one point you could add here.Otherwise the summary was beautifully written
Thank you!:)

ashib said...

i feeel very proud dat i cud b da student of pat sir----whose blog iz nw a wrldwide refrnc 4 da poemz 4 grade 12 cbse studntz.......hats off sir.....hope u r 5n...

ANJU said...

HELLO SIR,
THE SUMMARY IS WELL WRITTEN.THANK YOU SIR. CAN YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN WHY CLINIC HEART IS MARKED COLLOCATION?

Anonymous said...

The last sentence of ur explanation cd hav been clearer if u have split it into a few simple sentences.

PAKHI SHARMA said...

curtain is a story of 2 lovers and those special moments of seperation have been beautifuly penned down as a poem
and sir u have given a much more satisfying and amazing explanation to HELEN'S words
FANTABULOUS ......... :-)

Udit Ojha said...

thanks gud explanation...finally i understood the poem...:)

Anchit said...

Your explanations are really great... thank you :)

Anonymous said...

thank you very much!.. i finally understood this poem.. very nicely explained

Anonymous said...

the summary is very helpful in understanding the poem but it is grammatically incorrect at many places...

Shaonlee Patranabis said...

Can it be said that "darkness" is a metaphor for ignorance, for the ease and consolation that one seeks from pain.?
Their pain is so intense, that there is not a moments respite from it, not even at night when every human may sleep and dream in peace,the lovers have lost that sanctuary.

Anonymous said...

thank u so much sir uploading such a nice explanation of the the poem.
Its truly amazing!!
I have a question plz if you can answer to this I'll be very grateful to you
What is the relation between Hamlet and the theme of the poem 'Curtain'?

Anonymous said...

Hamlet is a character known for his confused behavior. The poet is comparing the confused state of minds of the lovers. The separation has made them indecisive as they have lost a part of themselves.

Anonymous said...

wud like to know wat does two hamlets two gosts ....mean

Anonymous said...

its a great explanation ! :)

Anonymous said...

In the final para what does "white murder" means ??

Anonymous said...

Any quotes for this poem?

RAJASREE said...

THANK YOU FOR THE EXPLANATION . I TRIED DONATING TO THE ORPHANAGE BUT THE SITE SHOWS AS ERROR

amaan khan said...

Thanx a lot sir for the explainations... can you please explain me the phrase QUIET DISASTER

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mary'am said...

A lot of people have asked about the line 'Are born two ghosts, two hamlets, two soliloquies,'. I would like to shed light on this sentence.
It is said that two ghosts are born because after the separation, the lovers have lost everything, they seem to lack any feeling of heart break, all they know is a quiet disaster which is unknown to anybody but them. This makes them like ghosts; being tortured internally, and of course like two hamlets who are haunted by this separation and who will be ranting to themselves about their helplessness and their disorientation regarding their loss and also hence the two soliloquies; a mere act of speaking aloud to oneself.

Atul Krishna said...

Too good sir

Atul Krishna said...

Too good sir

Anonymous said...

Poem*

the horseman said...

what does 'Already the one dark air is separate and strange' mean?
what does the dark air signify?

Ruchi Dayal said...

i cant login to the link you have given ... please help me to log in ... i need the summary