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ICSE Notes 2017 : psalm of life

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Kabir Nasir
Hiranandani Foundation School (HFS), Thane
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A Psalm of Life I. Tell me not, in mournful numbers, Life is but an empty dream! For the soul is dead that slumbers, And things are not what they seem. (i) What are mournful numbers? Ans. Mournful numbers mean sorrowful verses. The narrator tells the psalmist not to tell him in sad, woeful, depressing verses that life is a meaningless dream. (ii) What is meant by: Life is but an empty dream ? How can life be an empty dream? Ans. Life is but an empty dream means life is a meaningless dream. It is worthless and purposeless. Life is an empty dream for one who is inactive and dull. The poet however rejects the notion that human life is an empty dream. He dismisses the psalmist s sad poetry and he does not want to hear grumblings that life is devoid of all meaning. Life is serious. It has to be taken earnestly. (iii) What does the poet intend to convey to his readers by saying: the soul is dead that slumbers ? What does he say, later in the poem about acting at the present moment? Ans. The soul is dead that slumbers means that he who spends his life aimlessly is already dead. If a man passes an idle, inactive and dull life, without doing anything for the welfare of human beings and society, he is no different from a dead person. A man who is passive is like a dead person. Later in the poem the poet exhorts us to act in the present. He tells the readers not to rely on the future, however bright it may seem, and the past events must be put away and forgotten. The aim in life should be to act in the present as the future is uncertain and unpredictable. Similarly we must not brood in the past. We must act in the present and make it strong and bright by working day and night, without wasting time, having faith and courage and trust in God. (iv) Under what circumstances, are things not what they seem? Ans. Life is a mystery. Things may not always be what they apparently seems to us. Things are often different from what they seem to be. They may turn out to be good if we have the mind to seize the opportunity to achieve something in life. We must be positive in our outlook towards life. Bad circumstances may not always be bad. Life is full of work, struggle and opportunities. Man must lead a heroic life. (v) Explain what type of attitude in human beings is condemned in the extract? Ans. In the above extract the poet condemns an aimless, passive and inactive attitude in human beings. He rejects the thought of people being irresponsible and negative in their outlook towards life. II. Life is real, life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art, to dust that returnest, Was not spoken of the soul (i) Life is real! What was said earlier in the poem to indicate that there are appearances rather than reality in life? Ans. The poet emphatically says that life is not a dream. It is real and has noble aims so it should not be treated lightly. Earlier the poet says, And things are what they seem . This indicates that there are appearances rather than realities in life. Things are often different from what they seem to be. They may turn out to be good if we seize the opportunity and if we have the mind to achieve something in life. Bad circumstances may not always be so bad. It basically depends on our outlook towards life. (ii) What is meant by And the grave is not its goal ? What conviction does the poet have about life after death? 1

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