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Reading Comprehension 16 - Poetry Comprehension 2
Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Where the Mind is Without Fear’ is a patriotic poem for Indians.

Reading Comprehension 16 - Poetry Comprehension 2

Whilst studying Upper Primary English you will come across many different types of writing. The epics, such as Ramayana and Mahabharata or the Iliad and the Odyssey, are all forms of poetry. They were originally in the spoken form and were only later written down. Most countries' national anthems are basically poems which reflect their country’s ethos, coupled with some soul searching melodies.

Poems have the power to motivate a whole country, if the people have a comprehension of their meanings.. India’s independence movement was spearheaded by three great poems, its national anthem ‘Jana Gana Mana,’ national song ‘Vande Mataram’ and Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite ‘Raghupathi Raghava Rajaram.’ All these come under the genre of poetry.

India’s history of literature is characterised in scintillating poetry of Purandaradasa and Sarvajna in Kannada, Kabir Das and Tulsidas in Hindi and Thiruvallavur and Subramanya Bharathi in Tamil. One of India’s most famous literary masterpieces is the Bhagavad Gita, which is in poetry form.

Poetry is one of the more alluring forms of literature, perhaps why it is so well suited to anthems. It attracts poets from all walks of life. Even India’s former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is an excellent poet. Poems also take on a variety of forms such as couplets, sonnets, ballads, limericks, elegies and epics.

Poets take recourse to all facets of the English language, using similes, metaphors, onomatopoeic words, idioms, hyperboles and personification in their works. Some of the greatest poets, including Alfred Tennyson and William Shakespeare, used their command of words and the construction of sentences, lines and stanzas to craft their poems in styles of their own.

A piece of poetry well suited to your reading comprehension studies is Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Where the Mind is Without Fear.’ This is another great motivating poem for Indians. The poem was written during the height of British Rule in India. Rabindranath Tagore’s literature was so captivating that it earned for him the Nobel Literature Prize in the year 1913. Three countries, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, owe their national anthems to the great poet. The quiz that follows is a test of your comprehension of the Rabindranath Tagore poem, ‘Where the Mind is Without Fear.’
Where The Mind Is Without Fear.

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action;
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
1.
What may be the motivation for writing this poem?
Patriotism is the motivation for Tagore to write this poem.
Tagore wanted to win the Nobel Prize.
Tagore's publisher wanted him to write the poem.
The British forced Tagore to write this poem.
India was being ruled by the British when the poem was written. It was Tagore's wish that India would be granted Independence from British Rule. His belief was that India would be much better off handling her own affairs
2.
What type of a poem is 'Where The Mind Is Without Fear'?
Epic
Ballad
Limerick
Free Verse
The poem is free verse, which means it does not have metrical patterns or rhymes. Tagore was the creator of a new form within the free verse form known as prose poems. Epic poetry is more of a narrative and very much longer and detailed. Ballad is also a form of narrative but told through music. A limerick is a rhyming poem, often humorous or satirical, consisting of five lines with lines 1, 2 and 5 rhyming and lines 3 and 4 also rhyming but with different sounds
3.
Which among the following is a metaphor?
'Where the mind is without fear'
'clear stream of reason’
'Where knowledge is free'
'Where tireless striving stretches'
Reason is equated to a clear stream and this is a metaphor. A metaphor is another figure of speech where you describe something with a totally different set of words than what is required
4.
What figure of speech is “a tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection”?
Situational irony
Idiom
Personification
Euphemism
Personification is defined as attributing an ability or trait of humans to an idea or concept or non-humans. “a tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection” is an example of personification in the poem. Here the ‘tireless striving’ has been personified like a human being stretching his arms to reach his goal through perfection. Situational irony is when an event does not happen when it should have. An idiom is an expression whose literal meaning is not what the expression wants to convey. A euphemism is another type of figure of speech and is the use of alternate words to replace words which may sound rude, offensive or inappropriate in a particular context
5.
Which of the following is not alliteration?
‘head held high’
‘where the world’
‘dreary desert sand of dead habit’
'By narrow domestic walls'
Alliteration is the use of the same consonant sound repeatedly at the beginning of each word in a line of verse. The first three options are all alliteration while the four words in 'By narrow domestic walls' have different consonant sounds
6.
What do Line 7, 'Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way' and Line 8, 'Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit' mean?
Tagore wishes the power of reason to be granted to his countrymen so that they can oust the outdated customs and traditions.
Tagore wanted national highways to be built.
Tagore wanted to link up all the rivers flowing in India.
Tagore wanted deserts in India to be made hospitable.
India was mired in a number of customs and traditions that were being followed blindly. Tagore wanted Indians to be granted the power of reason to analyse the traditions rationally and rid themselves of the dead habits. Tagore uses metaphors as figures of speech to drive home his point of view
7.
What figure of speech is 'dreary desert sand of dead habit’?
Idiom
Personification
Metaphor
Verbal irony
A dead habit is equated to the dreary desert sand and this is a metaphor. A metaphor is a figure of speech where you describe something with a totally different set of words than what is required. An idiom is an expression whose literal meaning is not what the expression wants to convey. Personification is defined as attributing an ability or trait of humans to an idea or concept or non-humans. Verbal irony is when you say something opposite of what you mean or when something is not really the truth. Verbal irony is often sarcasm
8.
What do Line 3 of the poem, 'Where the world has not been broken up into fragments' and Line 4 of the poem, 'By narrow domestic walls' mean?
The country should not be divided into administrative sub-divisions.
Tagore wishes for a country that is not broken up on the basis of prejudices of caste, creed, colour, religion or other needless superstitions domestically.
The country should not be divided on the basis of rivers flowing within the country.
The country should not be divided into sub-divisions based on food habits.
Tagore felt that the British were trying to adopt a divide and rule policy based on Indian internal prejudices of caste, creed, religion and superstitions. Tagore felt that Indians would be better off under their own rule where all the unnecessary domestic walls would be shattered and Indians would live in harmony with complete freedom of action and self rule
9.
What does the last line, 'Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake' convey?
That India was a lazy country and should be made more active.
That Indians were sleeping a lot and he wants Indians to be awakened.
That Indians were a lying lot and wanted them to come out with the truth.
That India should be rid of British Rule and also rid of its innumerable domestic social evils.
Tagore was clearly upset with India being suppressed not only by British oppression but also by its own internal contradictions represented by its superstitions and vast diversity in culture, race, language and religion. He desired that India should be free of these as well as British Rule. Thus, he desires that all the actions described in the first ten lines should be undertaken by Indians and he prays to the Almighty to grant Indians that 'heaven of freedom'
10.
What sentiment does the poem convey?
It conveys that Indians have been suppressed by the oppression of British Rule and Tagore wants India to walk into freedom.
It conveys that Indians are cowards.
It conveys that Indians are mired in tradition.
It conveys that India is consumed by strife.
When the poem was written India was under British Rule and Tagore uses the 'opposite' form to portray India's state under British Rule. For instance, 'Head held high' implies head bowed down which signifies that dignity was not accorded to Indians
Author:  V T Narendra

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