“Fog”- A poem by Carl Sandburg(1878-1967)

THE fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Love the single image of the cat in the poem. The fog comes in silent feline movements, sits on its silent haunches over the city and harbor and moves on ,as the morning grows to the day. Beautiful!

“Defunct”- A poem by e.e.cummings



Buffalo Bill’s
who used to
ride a watersmooth-silver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
he was a handsome man
and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death.

by e.e.cummings

Buffalo Bill is defunct. Which means he is no longer in use or operation? Use? For whom? He was doing great things while alive. He rode a silver-white water-smooth stallion. He broke pigeons, onetwothreefourfive just like that. He was a handsome man. But at Mr. Death he turned blue in the eyes.

The only thing one can do now is to ask Mr. Death a report of what he is like now because he is defunct. He is no longer in use here, you see.

He is like the old gramophone which played such fine music then but is now no longer in use or operation. Presently it is in the attic. We want to know how it is faring there.

So, Mr. Death, will you tell us how you like him?


But old gramophones do not disappear from the attic. Mr. Buffalo Bill is no doubt defunct .But isn’t there an intermediate stage between existence and non-existence, when the object continues to exist but does not perform the functions expected of it or, in other words, becomes defunct?

( inner skepticism)

Cummings did not use the gramophone image. If Mr. Buffalo Bill went for good, what was that to me?

“When lovely woman stoops to folly” -By Oliver Goldsmith

WHEN lovely woman stoops to folly,
And finds too late that men betray,
What charm can soothe her melancholy?
What art can wash her tears away?

The only art her guilt to cover,
To hide her shame from ev’ry eye,
To give repentance to her lover,
And wring his bosom is—to die.

In the eighteenth century, when lovely woman stooped to folly, the only way for her to hide her shame and wring his bosom in repentance was to die. Death was the only solution when she had lost her chastity and the man betrayed her.

In the twentieth century , when lovely woman stoops to folly she merely paces up and down alone ,in her room ,smoothes her hair with automatic hand and puts a record on the gramophone. (T.S.Eliot : The Waste Land)

She turns and looks a moment in the glass,
Hardly aware of her departed lover;
Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass:
‘Well now that’s done: and I’m glad it’s over.’
When lovely woman stoops to folly and
Paces about her room again, alone,
She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,
And puts a record on the gramophone.

The literary allusion made by Eliot serves the purpose of juxtaposing the social values prevailing at two different periods of time. But there is mockery of the society in both the poems, a biting sarcasm directed at the societies of both the times. In Goldsmith’s society an exaggerated importance is given to a woman’s chastity .In an act of promiscuity it is the woman who has to hide her shame whereas the man can walk away from the relationship without social disapproval. The woman “stoops” to folly, an act of bending from her moral uprightness. The only way she can wring repentance out of his bosom is for her to die.

In Eliot’s society chastity is no longer considered very important. But that does not mean the society has moved away from the retrograde sexual morality of Oliver Smith’s times. The exaggerated concern for female chastity is now replaced by a sexual more based upon unbridled lust and love without commitment. Here man-woman relationship is a purely mechanical one and there is nothing permanent about the relationship. The woman is hardly aware of her departed lover and does not care who he is because there is no intention of a permanent relationship behind the carnal act.

“To the historians” By Walt Whitman

You who celebrate bygones,
Who have explored the outward, the surfaces of the races, the life
that has exhibited itself,
Who have treated of man as the creature of politics, aggregates,
rulers and priests,
I, habitan of the Alleghanies, treating of him as he is in himself
in his own rights,
Pressing the pulse of the life that has seldom exhibited itself,
(the great pride of man in himself,)
Chanter of Personality, outlining what is yet to be,
I project the history of the futur

In the last line Whitman speaks about his mission in poetry ,which is not to narrate the history of mankind in terms of dead and gone events but to chant(sing) of what is yet to be-the future of man as projected over the graph of the past . Projecting the history of the future is equivalent to drawing upon the past for the behaviour and trend of collective human actions to arrive at the likely scenario of the future. Whitman the individualist will sing of the pride of man in himself and in his own rights. His chronicles are not a series of wars, calamities, nations and their upheavals , kings, queens, rulers and priests and their politics .Singing of these is mere singing of the surfaces of the races, exploring the mere outward.

Leaving not a rack behind

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”

The Tempest. Act iv. Sc. 1.

Another famous stage metaphor of Shakespeare from The Tempest. The most remarkable visual image is the stage trapping of ‘the baseless fabric of this vision’. A cloth backdrop with pictures of cloud-capped towers, gorgeous palaces, solemn temples and the great globe itself .The pageant fades as soon as the revels are ended ,leaving “not a rack behind” .We are such stuff as dreams are made on. Our revels get ended too soon. Then our life is rounded with a sleep. Once the curtains are down we go into the oblivion of sleep.

(also included in the Shakespeare page)