KEEPING QUIET

About the Poet - Pablo Neruda

 

Pablo Neruda (1904 – 1973) was the ‘pen name’ and later, ‘legal name’ of this famous Chilean poet – diplomat – politician. He won the Noble prize for literature in the year 1971. He wrote in green ink which was his personal symbol for desire and hope.  His writings are simple, wherein lies their beauty.
Originally written in Spanish, the essence of this poem is based on introspection and retrospection. The poet feels that some soul – searching is needed for us to be at peace with ourselves and others.

 

SUMMARY

The poet talks about the need of silence and quiet introspection and the importance of tranquillity and calmness. He also talks about creating a feeling of mutual understanding among human beings. The poet asks us to keep still and count up to twelve. He also asks us to sit still. For a moment we should not speak any language. We should not move our arms so much.  It will be a moment of complete silence without rush or worry. This would be an exotic moment.

Then a sudden strangeness will prevail which we will all enjoy. It will be bliss.  The fisherman would not harm the whales on the cold sea. Even the man gathering salt would stop working and look at his hurt hands and reflect at the pain and harm his strenuous task has caused him.

All kinds of wars must be stopped at once. The green wars against the environment, wars with poisonous gases, firearms, must be stopped at once.  People who are all the time preparing for wars leaving no survivors behind ought to find time to wear clothes and walk around with their brothers strengthening the message of peace and brotherhood.

At the same time the poet cautions not to confuse stillness with total inactivity. Life is an ongoing process and should not be associated with death. It is to be lived with positive attitude. He does not want us to ruminate over death.  But he feels that if for once we do not focus ourselves single -mindedly to keep our lives moving but do some introspection or spend some time in silence doing nothing, we can understand ourselves better and escape from the threatening calls of death.

The earth can teach us a lesson how everything comes to a dead end and comes to life again.  In the same manner a quiet introspection can bring all evil thoughts to an end and bring in a new life of peace and tranquillity. Now the poet will count up to twelve and they should keep quiet and he will go.

Thus the poem “Keeping Quiet” celebrates the necessity of introspection and the advantage of doing nothing and maintaining silence for some time and in the vast treasure of deep silence all depression will vanish and peace would be attained for one would be with oneself at one’s peaceful best.

GIST OF THE POEM

  • The poet talks about the need of silence and quiet introspection and the importance of quietude and calmness. He also talks about creating a feeling of mutual understanding among human beings.

  • The poet asks us to keep still and count up to twelve. He also asks us to sit still. For a moment we should not speak any language. We should not move our arms so much.

  • It will be a moment of complete silence without rush or worry. This would be an exotic moment.

  • Then a sudden strangeness will prevail which we will all enjoy. It will be bliss.

  • The fisherman would not harm the whales on the cold sea. Even the man gathering salt would stop working and look at his hurt hands and reflect at the pain and harm his strenuous task has caused him.

  • All kinds of wars must be stopped at once. The green wars against the environment, wars with poisonous gases, firearms, must be stopped at once.

  • People who are all the time preparing for wars leaving no survivors behind ought to find time to wear clothes and walk around with their brothers strengthening the message of peace and brotherhood.

  • At the same time the poet cautions not to confuse stillness with total inactivity. Life is an ongoing process and should not be associated with death. It is to be lived with positive attitude.

  • He does not want us to ruminate over death.

  • But he feels that if for once we do not focus ourselves single-mindedly to keep our lives moving but do some introspection or spend some time in silence doing nothing, we can understand ourselves better and escape from the threatening calls of death.

  • The earth can teach us a lesson how everything comes to a dead end and comes to life again.

  • In the same manner a quiet introspection can bring all evil thoughts to an end and bring in a new life of peace and tranquillity.

  • Now the poet will count up to twelve and they should keep quiet and he will go

 

EXPLANATION OF THE POEM

“Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.”

The poet begins with counting twelve urging everyone to be still. He chose ‘twelve` for several reasons. ‘Twelve’ hints at the twelve hours of a day which rules our life. ‘Twelve` refers to twelve zodiac signs believed to be the controlling forces of our lives. ‘Twelve` refers to twelve months of a year. ‘Twelve` even may be aimed for a preparation for all to be ready to plunge into the state of silence.

 

Poetic devices

1)  We will = Alliteration (line 1 and 2)

2)  Count ................still – Antithesis

 

“For once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;”

The poet here urges everyone to break the barriers of language and unite with one invisible tune i.e. silence. With the word ‘earth` the poet hints at all the humans living devoid the identity of country creed and caste. Though language is the identity of a country or race, he affirms that humans are more important and the identity of being a human of earth is broader realization.

Poetic devices

1)  Once on – Alliteration

“let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.”

The poet here urges to stop for one second. Here ‘second’ presents the tiniest part of time calculation. He ushers us to keep ourselves off for at least one second from the negative aspects. Here ‘arms’ is with dual meaning. He apparently indicates ‘arms’ as our hands engaged in several activities and at the same time refers to the weapons we use for destruction.

Poetic device

1)  Arms – Pun        1) Meaning one – hands

                                2)  Meaning two – Arms (weapons )

 “It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.”

We are always on move. We are all busy in accomplishing our work and go on rushing in our lives. The poet even urged to stop engines (referring industrial works causing harms to environment). The poet urges us to stop our personal activities and stop engines and unite in one tune i.e. silence. The poet declares silence as exotic because this silence will make us blissful, strange and will bring complete equilibrium. 

 

Poetic devices

1)  Without .................without – Repetition

2)  We would – Alliteration.

3)  Sudden strangeness – Alliteration

“Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.”

`If we be still, we shall be able to introspect the mistakes and wrongs done. Here fishermen are the representatives of all kinds of tyrants and killers. The poet wants, them to cease their work and realise their mistakes. The salt gatherer is explained as the representative of poor and lower section of the society. They go up to any level to earn their livelihood and often hurt themselves irreparably.

 

Poetic Devices 

1)  Cold sea – symbolised as polar region

2)  His hurt hands – Alliteration

“Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.”

The poet here condemns the people with green wars (biological weapon or creators of pollution) and wars with fire (Atomic war) . They become victorious but with no survivors left. The poet mocks at the victory of those people who get victory over destruction. The poet asks them to leave the path of destruction and join the group of silence. He urges them to put on white (symbolising – purity and serenity) clothes. And walk with others doing nothing (meaning anything negative and doing self introspection)

 

Poetic devices

1)  Wars with – Alliteration

2)  Wars with – Repetition

3)  Clean clothes – Alliteration

 

“What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.”

The poet here warns us that his message of silence should not be confused with total inactivity or inertia. He further clears that his message does not have any affinity with death even. His message is aimed at the way of living. He wants us to stop a while and feel the tranquillity so that a positive introspection is done.

 

“If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.”

We human beings are single minded. We are always busy in achieving our goals, completing personal responsibilities. And we never stop a while to evaluate ourselves and understand ourselves. We never understand that we shall never be able to come out of these desires and achievements. If we could stop a while, we would have understood the real purpose of our lives and ourselves. Rather we go on with the fear of death calculation how much of our dreams and wishes will be achieved.

 

Poetic devise

1)  We were – Alliteration

 

“Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.”

In conclusion the poet taught us through the example of earth which at one season may look as if dead but comes back with life in another season. Likewise our life will also bear certain meaning when we walk on the right path i.e. introspecting in silence. In the last two lines the poet leaves us to introspect as if he himself has gone through the same.

 

Poetic device

1) dead ……alive – Antitheses. 

 

Extract Based Questions (4 Marks)

Question.1. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.


“If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death


(a) Whom does ‘we’ refer to in the above lines?
(b) Why does the poet want us to ‘do nothing’ for once?
(c) What is the‘sadness’that the poet refers to in the poem?
(d) How can a huge silence do good to us?


Answer.
(a) ‘We’ refers to the human beings, who are always thinking about their own progress and advancement.
(b) The poet wants us to ‘do nothing’ for once so that our mind can be at peace and we are able to introspect and analyse our own actions.
(c) The poet refers to the ‘sadness’ which arises due to the fact that people fail to understand themselves. They have no time to introspect about their actions and their consequences.
(d) A huge silence can do good to us because we are able to achieve peace in this silence. It helps us in analysing ourselves and our actions, interrupting the sadness of threatening ourselves with death.

Question.2.Read the extracts given below and answer the questions that follow.
 

Perhaps the Earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive
Now I’ll count upto twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

 

(a) What does the Earth teach us?
(b) What does the poet mean to achieve by counting upto twelve?
(c) What is the significance of ’keeping quiet’?
(d) What is always alive, even when everything seems to be dead?
or
(a) What does the Earth teach us?
(b) Why does the poet countupto twelve?
(c) What will keeping quiet help us achieve?
(d) How does the Earth teach us that there is activity even in apparent stillness?


Answer.
(a) The Earth teaches us how new life springs from dead remains, and how there is life under apparent stillness.
(b) The poet wants to achieve peace by counting upto twelve. He wants us to introspect in a moment of silence.
(c) Keeping quiet doesn’t mean just not speaking. It means that we should avoid all activities which hurt nature and, in turn, hurt us.
(d) The Earth is always alive, even when everything else seems to be dead. There is always some activity going on in nature beneath its apparent stillness.
or
Answer.
(a) The Earth teaches us how new life springs from dead remains. It gives us lessons about sustaining and resurrecting life.
(b) The poet is initiating an exercise in meditation. When he counts upto twelve, the meditator puts away all digressions and experiences bliss. He wants all meditators to experience that bliss.
(c) Keeping quiet will help us introspect, reflect and experience silence and peace. This will in turn help us find solutions to our problems.
(d) Though the Earth appears still, there are so many changes that keep occurring beneath its surface. A seed that seems dead germinates under the Earth and a new life springs from it.

 

Question.3.Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.


For once on the face of the Earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
arid not move our arms so much.

 

(a) Why does the poet want us to keep quiet?
(b) What does he want us to do for one second?
(c) What does he mean by “not move our arms”?
(d) How can this moment of stillness help us?

 

Answer.
(a) The poet wants us to keep quiet in the hope that the moment of tranquillity might help us in finding the answers to our problems.
(b) The poet wants us to be silent and motionless for one second.
(c) The poet means that we should be in a state of total stillness with no physical activity at all.
(d) This moment of stillness can provide us physical and mental rest, during which our mind will be at peace. We can analyse our actions and their consequences and avoid rash or thoughtless behaviour.

 

Question.4. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.
 

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.


(a) What will happen if there is no rush or running of engines?
(b) Why would it be called an exotic moment?
(c) How would we feel at tliat moment?
(d) Name the poem and the poet.

 

Answer.
(a) It will be an ecstatic moment of tranquillity without rush or running of engines.
(b) It would be called an exotic moment because it will be an instance of universal peace and brotherhood. In that moment, all of us would initiate introspection through meditation and the whole world will be enveloped in quietness.
(c) We would feel very strange at that moment, because at that time everyone will have a feeling of oneness with their fellow human beings. It will be a new feeling altogether.
(d) The poem is ‘Keeping Quiet’, and the poet is Pablo Neruda.

Question.5. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.
 

Now we will count to twelve,
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the Earth,
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

 

(a) How long does the poet want to stay still?
(b) What does he hope to achieve by keeping quiet?
(c) What does the poet mean by “not move our arms so much”?
(d) Why does the poet suggest us not to sp,eak in any language?

 

Answer.
(a) The poet exhorts each one of us to count to twelve and then be quiet, silent and motionless for a brief moment.
(b) He hopes to achieve and realise the value of quiet introspection. In this silence, we shall feel that all are together and will experience a strange feeling of togetherness.
(c) By this, he means that we should not make any physical movement, as physical activity will stop dr interrupt our introspection.
(d) The poet wants us to simply be silent for a moment and utilise that time to understand ourselves as well as others. Besides, language differences often lead to conflict, which the poet, perhaps, wants to avoid.

 

Question.6.Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.
 

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

 

(a) What does the poet expect of the fishermen and why?
(b) While gathering salt, what will the man do?
(c) What do the hurt hands imply?
(d) How would man and nature benefit in this moment of silence?

 

Answer.
(a) In the exotic moment of silence and introspection, fishermen will become conscioi the fact that they are causing harm to the whales. The poet expects this because he feels that at this opportune moment all evil will come to an end.
(b) The man gathering salt will stop for a while at that quiet moment and look at his hurt
hands.
(c) ‘Hurt hands’ means that human beings are oblivious of the pain they are causing to themselves in the pursuit of amassing more and more comforts. They have no time for themselves.
(d) In this moment of silence, man will not harm nature, and both human beings and nature will get some time to attend to and recover from their wounds.

Short Answer Type Questions (3 Marks, 30-40 words)

Question.1. Which is the exotic moment that the poet refers to in ‘Keeping Quiet’?
Answer. The poet refers to the moment of stillness and quietness as an exotic moment. It would be an exotic moment, as such a tranquillity will initiate peace and brotherhood. There would be no movement, no talk, no activity and consequently, no violence.

Question.2. What is the sadness that the poet refers to in the poem ‘Keeping Quiet’?
or
What is the sadness that the poet refers to in the poem?

Answer. The poet refers to the sadness which surrounds man due to not having any time for himself, the pain of not understanding what he or his fellow human beings want. He has no time for introspection; as a result, he is unable to analyse his own actions and understand its consequences.

Question.3. Which images in the poem ‘Keeping Quiet’ show that the poet condemns violence?
Answer. The images of fishermen not harming the whales in the sea and wars leaving behind no survivors to celebrate the victory show that the poet condemns violence. The poet wants the warmongers to change their blood-stained clothes to clean ones. The poet’s refusal to have any association or dealing with death also shows that he is not in favour of any form of violence.

 

Question.4. What symbol from nature does the poet use to prove that keeping quiet is not total inactivity?
Answer. The poet uses nature as a symbol to explain his idea that there can be life under apparent stillness. According to him, keeping quiet is not total inactivity. A seed may appear to be dead and inactive, but one day, the same seed may turn into a fruitful tree.

 

Question.5. How, according to Neruda, can keeping quiet change our attitude to life?
Answer. Keeping quiet and suspending all our activities for a moment will give us time to introspect and analyse our own actions. We will develop a new understanding of our surroundings and thus change our attitude to life. We will check our destructive ways and try to be more positive and constructive.

 

Question.6.What are the different kinds of wars mentioned in the poem? What is Neruda’s attitude towards these wars?
Answer. The poet has written about wars against humanity and nature. Green wars, wars with poisonous gases and wars with fire are the different kinds of wars mentioned in the poem. Wars do good to no one. Pablo Neruda feels that such wars may bring victory, but there are no survivors. It means that there is heavy loss on both sides.

 

Question.7. How can suspension of activities help?
Answer. The poet believes that suspension of activities will allow man to introspect, which can help them in analysing their own actions, and in solving many of their problems based on caste, religion or nationality. It will help them develop a new understanding of their surroundings, and thus make them mend their destructive ways.

Question.8. Do you think the poet advocates total inactivity and death?
Answer. No, the poet clearly states that his asking for stillness should not be confused with total inactivity or death. He perceives life to be a continuous process, where man’s activities should not lead to destruction of fellow human beings or nature, but should be channelised in a resourceful way.

Question.9. According to the poet, what is it that human beings can learn from nature?
Answer. Life under apparent stillness in attitude is the thing which man can learn from nature. The Earth is never in a state of total inactivity. Nature carries on its work even where there is stillness all around. Winter is associated with inactivity, but this is not actually true.

Question.10.What will counting upto twelve and keeping quiet help us to achieve?
Answer. The poet asks each one of us to count to twelve and then be quiet, silent and motionless. This quietness will create a moment of togetherness among all; a condition which is foremost for the survival of humanity, which is indeed an achievement. It will also give us One to analyse our actions and their consequences.

 

TEXTUAL QUESTIONS:

1) What will counting upto twelve and keeping still help us achieve?

Answer. -According to the poet, we should stop all our activities for a moment. Let us give up using all our machines and engines for a short while because most of our troubles are due to our hurry and becoming rash. We should do introspection and keeping still will pave our path for peace.

 

2) Do you think Pablo Neruda advocates total inactivity and death?

Answer. -The poet Pablo Neruda does not advocate total inactivity and death. We should not confuse total inactivity with stillness. Total inactivity brings death while stillness entails rest for a moment so that we can have calm introspection. The poet wants to truck with death. Stillness will keep us start our activities again in a purposeful way.

 

3) What is the ‘‘sadness’’ that the poet refers to in the poem?

Answer. -The poet refers to the ‘‘sadness’’ which we form out of our own thinking and actions. We understand a lot of things but do not understand himself and his actions. His rush and hurry cause us troubles. He is bent up creating wars against humanity. He is the creator of all disasters. This is the ‘sadness’ that the poet refers to in the poem. Let us introspect ourselves and create mutual understanding.

 

4) What symbol from nature does the poet involve to say that there can be life under apparent stillness?

Answer. - The poet does not want us to confuse stillness with total inactivity. There is life under apparent stillness. He quotes the example of the Earth which is active round the clock. Thus the poet involves the Earth as a living symbol to prove his point. When everything seems dead, the Earth proves to be alive Under apparent stillness, the nature remains at work and thus keeps the Earth alive.

 

5) What does the title of the poem suggest to you? What do you think is the poem about?

Answer. -The title of the poem suggest that we must keep quiet for a moment. There will be silence and all will set together and realise the value of collectiveness. Here we should not confuse ‘stillness’ with ‘total inactivity’. Life should go on as it is doing about. Even the nature remains at work and keeps the Earth alive which remains busy in doing some activity. The poem stresses the significance of mutual understanding and necessity of introspection.

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