ISC English –The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy

August 27, 2017 at 11:01 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The Darkling Thrush
by Thomas Hardy

About THE AUTHR … Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was born in a not so well-to-do family. His father worked as a stone mason. His mother, however, was a gifted woman who took charge of Hardy’s education from the beginning. Hardy’s parents lacked the means to send him to university, so he was made to work as an apprentice with an architect. Hardy flourished in this field and, in due course, earned a name as an architect of repute. His heart, however, lay in literature. In later years, he devoted his time wholly to writing. He wrote poems, short stories and novels.

Reading Hardy must include his novels like ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’, ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’, and ‘The Return of the Native’. Among his poems, one might choose ‘Poems of Past and Present’, and ‘Moments of Vision’. In short story writing too, he excelled winning the admiration of countless readers. ‘A Tragedy of Two Ambitions’, ‘A Mere Interlude’ and ‘Alicia’s Diary’ are just a few of the long list of Hardy’s short stories.

The poem ..  

Hardy wrote this poem in 1900. It was the end of twentieth century. By then he has 60, and the old age was beginning to ravage him. Life expectancy in England was around 40 then. Was it his old age, or the depressing social conditions of England that bothered him? Perhaps, both. Hardy was ill at ease with the class-ridden, tradition-trapped Victorian age. He was born in a humble family, and his modest upbringing made him rail against the power and privileges of the elite class. The deeply-entrenched moral values stifled free thinking, and filled the average person’s life with needless misery. Hardy loathed such an archaic set up, but he could do nothing to reverse it, other than venting his desperation through his writings. The Darkling Thrush, perhaps, bears the marks of Hardy’s anguish and pessimism.

Stanza 1 …  

I leant upon a coppice gate 

      When Frost was spectre-grey, 

And Winter’s dregs made desolate 

      The weakening eye of day. 

The tangled bine-stems scored the sky 

      Like strings of broken lyres, 

And all mankind that haunted nigh 

      Had sought their household fires. 

Meaning … The insufferable winter is drawing near. There is snow everywhere. Life on earth is grinding to a halt. The landscape looks so lifeless, so ghoulish. The speaker leans over a gate that stood amidst shrubs and plants. His eyes fall on the tree that stands bereft of its foliage. The winter’s chill has stripped the tree of its leaves. Only the twigs and stems are left to peer skywards. They look like a derelict musical string instrument, whose strings are cut. Folks have retreated to their homes to escape the biting cold outside. Daily activities have been cut to the minimum in such a forbiding environment.

Stanza 2 …

The land’s sharp features seemed to be 

      The Century’s corpse outleant, 

His crypt the cloudy canopy, 

      The wind his death-lament. 

The ancient pulse of germ and birth 

      Was shrunken hard and dry, 

And every spirit upon earth 

      Seemed fervourless as I. 

Meaning .. The whole place looks so devoid of any activity. There is no hustle bustle, no exuberance, and nothing to cheer for. The town’s mortuary stands silent and alone. A dark cloud hovers over it to further accentuate the gloom and doom feeling. The wind blows with a deadly howl. There is no birth, no regeneration and no revival. Life seems to be trapped in an ice age. The speaker’s mood, like that of every other  denizen, appears so insipid and lackluster.

Stanza 3 …

At once a voice arose among 

      The bleak twigs overhead 

In a full-hearted evensong 

      Of joy illimited; 

An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small, 

      In blast-beruffled plume, 

Had chosen thus to fling his soul 

      Upon the growing gloom. 

Meaning ….Amidst this deafening silence and graveyard-like  doom and despondency, the speaker hears a strange loud sound emanating from the background of the dry lifeless twigs and stems of the nearby tree. It catches the speaker by surprise. The strange sound seems to announce that hope and health is returning. The speaker discovers that an old, enfeebled thrush with frayed plumes is crying out.  But, the intent of the thrush in making the cry, when all life forms are on the verge of eternal silence, baffles the speaker. ‘What could be the bird’s motivation?, wonders the speaker.

Stanza 4 …

So little cause for carolings 

      Of such ecstatic sound 

Was written on terrestrial things 

      Afar or nigh around, 

That I could think there trembled through 

      His happy good-night air 

Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew 

      And I was unaware. 

Meaning … The thrush’s energetic cry obviously was not announcing the advent of cataclysm and death. ‘Then, what was it?,’ ponders the speaker. He concludes that the thrush perhaps knew that everything in this world was not doomed yet, and there was still hope. May be, good times would soon return, but the speaker was unaware of any such good tidings.

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ISC English literature — Salvatore by W. Somerset Maugham

August 25, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Salvatore by W. Somerset Maugham

About the author .. Rarely has English literature produced such a prolific short story writer, playwright, and novelist as Dr. Somerset Maugham(1874-1965). This literary genius, born in a family of legal luminaries, spurned a career in law, although it offered him assured success. He studied medicine, and qualified as a doctor, but rarely practiced what he had been trained for. Except a stint with the Red Cross, Somerset Maugham never took to treating patients. However, his encounter with many poor suffering patients during his medical education had a profound influence on him. He began writing when he was in college studying to become a doctor. His first novel, ‘Liza of Lambeth’ dealt with infidelity prevalent among middle class men and women during those times, and the painful consequences of such unfaithfulness among spouses. The book soon flew off the shelves, giving Maugham a flying start to Maugham’s literary ambitions.
Maugham was born in France, educated in England, and lived in Spain. He travelled extensively throughout South East Asia and India observing the ways of the Eastern societies. In his six decades of writing life, he turned out many spectacular novels, short story collections and even thrillers. ‘The Magician’ (1908) captivated thriller-loving readers. At one time, London’s four opera houses were simultaneously running four of Maugham’s plays. This speaks volumes about the way the readers loved Maugham’s writings.
Maugham had a flawed romantic life, that raised eyebrows in the contemporary Victorian society, but his literary brilliance overshadowed this little distortion.

About this story ‘Salvatore’ .. This short story is set in a tiny remote fishing village in Italy. It centers around Salvatore, a young 15-year-old happy-go-lucky lad who has grown up in a fisherman’s family. He whiles away his time blithely in the sea beach. Salvatore had two young siblings, who gamboled in the shallow waters of the sea. When they went a bit far, Salvatore used to yell at them to come ashore.

The scrawny Salvatore stepped into his adulthood sooner than later. He was enamoured of a girl from Grande Marina who bore her charm with dignity. The courtship went on, but Salvatore couldn’t marry his sweetheart. He had to complete his conscription in the navy, before he could settle down. It was a daunting, but inescapable obligation that made Salvatore nervous and fearful. It was not the horrors of battle, but the prospect of leaving home that made Salvatore anxious.

Aboard the naval ship, in sailor’s uniform, Salvatore gazed at the horizon and remembered the sunset over Ischia that he used to watch every evening. This island situated to the north of the Gulf of Naples looked majestic when the sun dipped into the horizon. Salvatore yearned for Marina. The pangs of separation from her filled his mind with gloom. Salvatore was very forlorn.

His ship passed through Spezzia, Venice, and Bari before reaching China. Misfortune awaited Salvatore at China. He was afflicted by a debilitating disease, and had to be admitted to a hospital in that distant country. The doctor said that Salvatore had contacted a virulent strain of rheumatism, and wouldn’t be able to do heavy manual work for the rest f his life. The hospital’s findings came as  bolt from the blue for Salvatore, but it brought a huge relief to the home-sick and love-sick young man. He knew he would be discharged from the navy forthwith. That meant deliverance from the battle ship, and most importantly, an early return to his lady love. It cheered Salvatore to the point of being ecstatic.

Salvatore headed home. In the final lap of his journey, he was rowed ashore to the beach where his parents, friends and a whole crowed waited for him. Salvatore looked at them gleefully, but there was one person missing. Grande Marina was not there to welcome her darling home. It puzzled Salvatore. The waiting crowd kissed and hugged Salvatore, but he missed the kiss he most wanted. His fiancee’s absence filled Salvatore’s mind with angst.

Salvatore’s mother said that she had not seen the girl for two or three weeks. It added to his anxiety. He couldn’t wait any longer. As dusk fell, he went to his beloved’s house the same evening to meet her. To his great distress, he got a cold stare from her. She stood detached. He asked her if she hadn’t received the letter he had written about his return. He told her reassuringly that the doctor’s diagnosis was a bit exaggerated, and he would soon be fit and fine. Again, the maiden showed no emotion. Salvatore looked quizzically into her eyes, but she remained aloof. Finally, she dropped the bombshell. In clear terms, she told Salvatore that he was crippled, and couldn’t work hard enough to earn a living. So, she has decided to go by her father’s decision that she must marry someone else fit enough to be the bread earner of the family. She told that it was her family’s unanimous decision. Her father simply couldn’t give her to a man who can’t slog like an able-bodied fisherman.

Salvatore trudged back home with the grief gnawing at his heart incessantly. Back at home, he discovered, to his dismay, that his family members were aware of the girl’s decision, and they had held back the news from him.

Clearly, Salvatore was devastated. He let his tears wet his mother’s bosom. But, the rancor and the indignation were not there in his mind. Unlike what most young lovers would do, he didn’t blame her for her decision to abandon him. He understood marrying a semi-crippled young man would have been untenable for a working class fishing family. He bore his misfortune with remarkable fortitude.

Months rolled by. Salvatore resumed his toil in his father’s vineyard and fishing trips. He soon came to terms with his life without Marina.

His mother had a news to break for her lonely son. She said there was a young woman by the name Assunta in the community who was willing to marry him. Salvatore’s initial comment about the girl was rather disparaging. She had no great looks, and was older than him. Her fiancé had died in battle somewhere in Africa. Assunta was ready to tie the knot, if Salvatore agreed.

Apart from this, his mother disclosed that Assunta had some money with her. After marriage, she could buy a fishing boat and rent a vine yard, so that the couple could make a living with ease. Moreover, Assunta had developed a fascination for him after she saw him at the festa. 

Salvatore decided to see the girl. The following Sunday, he dressed himself smartly in black to look robust, and sat in a vantage point in the Church from where he could see Assunta properly. Salvatore agreed to make Assunta his wife. He told his mother about it.

The couple lived in a tiny white-washed cottage at the middle of the vine yard. Salvatore had become a stout, jolly, and hard-working guy. He had retained his childlike air, his pleasing eyes, and his cool demeanour. He, accompanied by his younger brother, went into the sea at evening, caught the lucrative cuttlefish, and rowed back early so that he could sell the catch to the ships bound for Naples. During the days he didn’t go out fishing, he worked in his vineyard from dawn to dusk, with a short break in the afternoon.

The rheumatism returned sporadically making it very hard for him to work. He would then indolently lie on the beach, smoking cigarettes and gazing at the sea. He bore the rheumatic pain stoically, and had a friendly chat with those passing by him.

On some occasions, he brought his children to bathe them in the sea waters. The two boys abhorred being pushed into the waters. The elder demurred lightly, but the younger one screamed with fright. Salvatore was a genteel loving father who poured affection on his two sons. It was remarkable how the trio enjoyed their beach outings with warmth and togetherness.

Maugham’s account of Salvatore has no heroics, no chivalry, no melodrama. Yet, Salvatore’s character exudes the values that make a person adorable. His life, very ordinary and mundane, radiates goodness, at every step.

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Question …

Look into Salvatore’s life through Maugham’s eyes, and discover the goodness of his character that impressed the author.

[Answer will be posted soon.]

 

 

ISC English literature –Fritz by Satyajit Ray

August 21, 2017 at 11:57 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Fritz by Satyajit Ray

A word about Satyajit Ray .. Satyajit Ray(1921-92) was a man of cinematography and all other art forms that go with it. Born and brought up in Calcutta, Ray started his career as a low-paid commercial artist. Despite such a humble beginning, the flame of creativity burned in him from the very beginning. His chance encounter with the French film maker Jean Renoir marked a watershed in this master artist’s life. He saw the film Bicycle Thieves by Vittorio de Sica, and from then on, Ray plunged into the world of cinema with all his gusto and verve. Paucity of finance, and many such odds came his way, but he overcame them with remarkable tenacity. He was determined to experiment with film making, because there was no way he could put a lid his restive genius bemoaning his lack f resources.
Satyajit Ray soon rose to fame like a Phoneix. His first film Pather Panchali (1955) based on a middle-class Bengali family won him eleven international awards. With this debut Ray had arrived in the international film-making arena. He wrote stories, their screenplay, music, and directed them to the minutest detail. Among his later day films are Aparojito, Apur Sansar, and The Apu Trilogy. His film Devi and Charulata are acclaimed as two of the best art films ever made anywhere in the world.

Satyajit Ray was a brilliant writer too, who could conjure up complex plots out of very ordinary situations. ‘Fritz’ set in a British-era rest house in a small town named Bundi in Rajasthan grips the reader’s attention till the last scene when it plunges him to a cauldron of fear, confusion, and chimera.

The story … The short story is set in a circuit house (a dak bungalow generally used by senior government officers for short stays). It is situated in Bundi, a small town in Rajastan. Two visitors, the author Shankar, and his childhood friend Jayanto have come to explore Bundi, and are put up in the guest house. Jayanto works in a newspaper office and the author teaches in a school. After so many misses, they have managed to get a time slot when they could go out on a journey together.

They are having tea in the circuit house. Jayanto appears lost in some thoughts. The author inquires to know what bothers Jayanto so much. He replies by saying that the faint memories of his first visit to Bundi are rushing into his mind.

Jayanto’s father Animesh Dashgupta used to work in the Archeological Department. His work brought him so many times to Rajasthan – the repository of India’s ancient monuments. Although he was a young child then, the sojourn to Bundi had not quite faded from Jayanto’s mind. The magnificent building stood still there. A few items of furniture he saw then are there too giving an impression of timelessness of the place. Jayanto becomes nostalgic as he recollects the tall rooms, the ventilators tethered to strings, the rose plants outside. The trees stood tall giving refuge to parrots and so many other birds. Jayanto remembered these vividly.

The two friends stepped out sightseeing. They go to see the famous fort of Bundi standing aside the hills. 

Time seemed to stand still in the Fort’s vicinity. Everything looked so antiquated, belonging to the bygone era. Only the electric pole standing by the road declared that the old times had yielded place to new age. In the old buildings along the roads, there were unmistakable signs of the old Rajputana’s fabled craftsmanship. The doors and the balconies had intricate designs made on them. The old golden age of master craftsmanship appeared to come alive.

Jayanto was an emotional man by nature. After he landed in Bundi, he seemed to be unusually quiet, and somewhat absent-minded. Perhaps, the sights and sounds of Bundi had stirred a delicate chord in his heart. Jayanto’s palpable sadness didn’t escape Shankar’s notice.

Jayanto reminisces about the large rooms and the over-sized chairs of the circuit house. He used to sit cross-legged on those big chairs. Now, everything seems to have shrunk in size. Shankar dispels his confusion by stating that he has grown in size over the years and that makes him feel so.

Jayanto and Shankar decide to take a stroll outside in the open. After a while, Jayanto seems to be struck by the memory of a Deodar tree that used to stand around that place. He looks somewhat bewildered, and looks around to find the tree. He finds it after a few moments and appears quite excited to discover the Deodar tree there.

Jayanto’s euphoria takes his friend by surprise. Jayanto fixes his gaze on the trunk of the tree and looks into it searchingly. He exclaims that he had an encounter with an European here. The author’s surprise mounts.

Jayanto struggles to recollect what really had happened then.

The two friends return to their room. Dilwar is there to cook food for the guests. Dilwar was red-eyed, with a scarred face, but in culinary skill, he was quite adept.

Jayanto had in the meanwhile re collected a fair portion of his faded memory – about the place and the ‘European’.

It emerged that Fritz was a doll brought from Switzerland by his uncle during his visit to a village there. Fritz was an one-foot tall Swiss gentleman attired in Swiss clothes. It look so real as a living being. The stuff it was made of rendered it very flexible and elastic. One could bend it or twist it at will.

Jayanto, as a child, took great fancy with Fritz. He treated the Swiss gentleman as his friend. Jayanto’s parents frowned to see their little son so attached to the doll. 

Shankar heard out his friend’s infatuation with the Swiss doll amusedly.

 Jayanto was however deeply engrossed in his memories of Fritz. A shocking tragedy befell Fritz. On one occasion, Jayanto had kept him on the floor while taking tea. For a moment, he had taken his eyes off the doll. A group of stray dogs came from nowhere and snatched the doll. They bit and dragged Fritz with savage force. Poor Fritz endured the excruciating pain silently. By the time Jayanto saw Fritz again just minutes later, Fritz had been ripped apart badly. He was scarred and bruised beyond recognition. With great disbelief and shock, Jayanto looked at his dear Fritz, and assumed he was dead.

Jayanto decided to bid his friend a final good-bye. He arranged to have him buried in the compound of the Circuit House, under a Deodar tree.

Shankar, now, realized why his friend was so agitated about speaking about the Deodat tree.

The two friends retired to their beds as the night deepened. 

The author slept off as he was tired after the long walk during the day. Sometime later, he woke up abruptly to find that his perplexed friend sitting on the bed. Apparently, he had switched the bedside lamp. Tension was writ large in his face. He didn’t answer to Shankar’s query.

Quite abstractly, he asked the author if the bungalow had small creatures like rats and cats. Jayanto had felt a small creature walking over his chest when he was asleep. This had woken him up. No doubt, he was frightened.

He told the author that this was the second time he had got up from his sleep. He had heard an unusual shuffling noise the first time. At this, Shankar looked around the room to spot the nocturnal intruder, but the search was futile. Jayanto was still disturbed. To prove his point, he showed his pillow that had some faint marks pointing to the fact that a small animal had walked over it.

Shanker felt his friend’s anxiety exaggerated. He told his friends some reassuring words to soothe his nerves. After a bit of coaxing and pleading, Jayanto went to sleep again, so did the author.

Next morning, they finished their breakfast by 9, and went to the fort. Jayanto again seemed immersed in his old memories of the place. He looked excited to re-discover the statutes of the elephant, the royal throne and the beds. All the while, he appeared a bit lost too. 

The two friends began to walk back very leisurely. After a while, Jayanto had quietly slipped and gone to the corner of the terrae. With a little effort, Shankar found his friend, but the latter seemed to be fully plunged in some thoughts. He stood absent-minded.

The two friends decided to return, although Shankar (the author) had wanted to stay in the fort a little longer. Jayanto was perturbed by some unknown thoughts. He was not at all his usual self.

Jayanto asked his friend persistently to tell him what lay behind his disturbed mind. After a of effort, Jayanto opened up. He told that Fritz, the long-lost doll, had come to their room the night before. He ascribed the marks on his quilt to Fritz’s footprints.

The author was beginning to feel annoyed at his friend’s irrational fear. He thought, he needs to be given some medicine to calm his troubled mind.

The author (Shankar) hit upon an idea that could dispel the fear of the ‘dead and destroyed’ Fritz from his friend’s mind. He felt exhuming Fritz’s remains from his grave would rove to his troubled friend that the doll had simply vanished into the oblivion. After thirty long years in contact with soil, everything of Fritz would have been eaten up. At the best, rusted and corroded remains of his metal buckle would be there. This should convince Jayanto that Fritz  is gone for good from the face f the earth.

The idea of exhuming Fritz appealed to Jayanto. With the help of the gardener of the bungalow, they went to the exact spot where Jayanto felt his Fritz was buried.

After not much digging, the gardener hit upon the obect the duo were so keenly looking for. But, a nasty surprise awaited them. What the gardener retrieved from the soil was not some rusted metal piece, but a tiny human skeleton of a foot length. It was so real, but so frightening. The two friends recoiled in horror in seeing a foot long human skeleton.

Disturbing thoughts rushed into the two friends like a torrent. Was Fritz a human who still yearned for Jayanto’s company?


Questions …

a. Why was Jayanto appearing so absent-minded during the trip to Bundi?

Answer .. Jayanto had lived in Bundi in his childhood days. During this period, he had developed an enduring relationship with the doll named Fritz. The two bonded very well, and Jayanto  treated Fritz like a real human being in flesh and blood and an endearing charm. The relationship ended tragically when Fritz was brutally shredded by a pack of stray dogs. Fritz was buried, but his memory clung to Jayanto’s heart. The visit to Bundi rekindled these memories leaving Jayanto engulfed with memories of Fritz. This was the reason why Jayanto looked so absent-minded.

b. How did the author try to assuage Jayanto’s mind during the night?

Answer .. The author rightly judged Jayanto’s angst about some nocturnal visitors to their room as un-founded and irrational fear. He tried to calm his friend’s nerves by reassuring him that nothing untoward had happened and there was little to lose one’s sleep on. The author looked around the room himself to see if indeed any creature had made his way in, and there was none. Even he toyed with the idea of giving his perplexed friend some tranquilizer tablets to enable him to regain his composure.

c. How the story comes to a bone-chilling end?

Answer .. The story was heading towards a lame end until the discovery of the remnants of the toy Fritz were exhumed. The author perhaps expected to see nothing except some rusted buckles or some such scrap. But, what was found was so outworldly and bizarre. The discovery of a tiny human skeleton from the grave of a supple-bodied doll was so horrifying and grisly. Was Jayanto right in treating Fritz like a living human? The question defied any answer.

 

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Dream Children by Charles Lamb

August 18, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Dream Children by Charles Lamb

Charles Lamb(1774-1834) didn’t live long, but he made stellar contribution to English literature through his essays, short stories, and poems. His personal life was beset with many problems. A lunatic elder sister, a futile romance, and his struggle with mental illness didn’t, however, dim his creativity with the pen. He courted a girl named Ann Simmons for seven long years, but she broke his heart by marrying a silversmith. The broken affair cast a long shadow over Lamb’s life, and he decided to remain a bachelor for the rest of his life. His sister Mary, older than him by eleven years, was bit of a mentally deranged woman. In a feat of rage, she once impelled a kitchen knife into her mother’s chest, killing her on the spot. Charles Lamb, despite his meager earnings, never left his sister Mary t fend for herself. He took good care of her arranging for her treatment from time to time as she swung between normalcy and instability periodically. Even Charles Lamb had a six-week stint in a mental hospital to rid himself of his partial lunacy.
He worked for a living in East India House as a clerk. In his free hours he wrote his pieces.
Charles Lamb was fortunate to have literary icons like Samuel Taylor Coleridge as his close friend. Lamb poured out his grief to Coleridge through many pensive letters.

About ‘Dream Children’ ….Dream Children is a short that formed part of Lamb’s ‘The Essays of Elia’. Lamb wrote under the pen name of Elia. It is an autobiographical account of the author’s life that was riddled with so many tragedies. As the name of the story suggests, it is a ‘reverie’, meaning that it is nothing but a short day dream conjured by the author. The dream comes to an abrupt and sad end. Almost all characters are real except Alice, who is none other than Ann Simmons, who married another man leaving Charles in a sea of agony.

The characters .. Mrs. Field .. Charles Lab’s great grandmother
Uncle John … The elder brother of the author who was older than him by about 14 years
Alice .. An imagnary girl, through whose eyes Lamb saw her beloved Ann.
John .. A boy imagined by the author

Background to the story and Lamb’s character sketch .. Charles Lamb was undoubtedly a benign man. He bore his misfortune with remarkable fortitude. To see one’s mother fatally stabbed by one’s own sister for no great reason would devastate anyone. Lamb, too, was shaken by this grim tragedy, but, far from being vengeful towards his sister Mary, he strove to see that the minimum punishment was awarded to her. Later, he took Mary to the mental treatment clinic multiple times to nurse her back to normal life. Even Lamb had his bouts of mental illness followed by a short stay in a hospital. Although the girl he loved so much ditched him after seven long years, he showed no vengfulness. He dedicated his time, money and energy to serve his sister Mary. He chose to remain a bachelor —  a great sacrifice for such a talented young man.

Charles Lamb yearned to marry, raise a family and lead a full life, but fate ordained otherwise. Obviously, he loved children and must have spent countless nights pining for a wife, and his own children. This reverie bears testimony to the cravings of his heat and the trauma of his soul.

The story (A fictional one) .. In the opening lines, Charles Lamb finds himself surrounded by two lovely children, Alice and John. The duo pleaded with their father Lamb to narrate a story about his ancestors and his bygone days.

Lamb talks about his great grandmother Mrs. Field. She was a devout Christian and a woman of great piety. Due to her sterling character, a wealthy man had asked her to live like a caretaker in one of his sprawling villas in Norfolk. Field, lived in just a lonely corner of the huge use, but attended to the upkeep of the house with attention and sincerity.

The house had some connection to a horrible episode of a very cruel uncle who had smothered some children, sometime in the past. The details of this horrific massacre were carved as ‘ballad of the woods’ in the body of a wooden chimney inside the Norfolk mansion. Sadly, the owner of the house chose to have the wooden chimney replaced by a marble one. With the renovation, the wooden chimney was gone, so was the inscription of the tragic story.

Alice and John were listening to their father’s (Lamb’s) account with attention. Lamb spoke eloquently about his great grandmother Ms. Field. When she passed away, her admirers from far and wide converged on her house to pay their tributes.

After her death, the owner of the house had all the ornate fixtures and furniture removed to another house of his. These items ill fitted the new house, looking so incongruous, and out-of-place. John, listening to the story seemed to appreciate the fact that the decision to cart away the furniture to a new house had not been a wise one.

Ms. Field was a gifted dancer too. Unfortunately, she was afflicted with cancer, and her zest for dancing took a beating. This crippling disease, however, failed to diminish Grandma Field didn’t allow her spirits to droop. She was a brave lady who slept in a solitary room in the large house. Even John chose to sleep beside the maid to ward off fear. Ms. Field saw dreams, but there was nothing to fear. In the dreams she saw two babies with wings gliding down the stairs. The nocturnal visitors had no bellicose intent.

Ms. Field’s affection towards her grandchildren had still remained vivid in his memory. She allowed them a free run over the house garden that had fruit trees of many types. There were peach trees, nectarine and orange trees, and many others. The house had busts of Roman royalty, which Lamb loved to observe with interest. The visiting children didn’t pluck any fruit from the trees perhaps because they were advised not to. Hearing this account, Alice and John seated near their father desisted from partaking of the oranges kept before them. The story appeared to have a great sway over them.

Lamb told his listeners Alice and John that his brother John L (their uncle) was a handsome, well-built, and athletic young lad. He was the favoured grand child of Ms. Field. When other children roamed around in the mansion and the garden, John L would go horse riding to nearby woods. He lavished his affection on his younger brother (the narrator and the two children’s father). At times, John L would carry his younger brother (the narrator) in his back despite an injury in his foot. His death made the narrator very sad indeed.

Soon, Alice and John lost interest in the sad account of their father’s earlier years. They prodded him to talk about days of his childhood instead of going so far down the memory lane. Particularly, they wanted to hear about their mother.

Charles Lamb proceeded to name her. She was Alice W—n. The narrator held back the true name ‘Anna Simmons’. He rued that he had courted her for seven long years, but the romance and the effort were futile. He made no effort to conceal his dismay at her refusing to marry him. Just around this time, Charles Lamb, in the role of the father of his two imaginary children Alice and John, saw some uncanny resemblance n the faces of Ann Simmons and Alice. It seemed as though Ann as speaking to him through Alice.

At this point, the story takes an abrupt turn. Lamb wakes up from his sleep and finds himself lying on his arm chair. Curtains come down on the author’s lovelorn past. Hard reality prevails. Charles Lamb honestly states that James Elia, the author, no longer lives in this world.

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