All posts by Rounak Barman

Not your average cup of Joe☕

If and only if

If you can keep your head when all about you  
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,  
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;  
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

The poet begins with a father listing the various things the son should do to be a true embodiment of a human being which he terms as a Man. The son here is representative of all human beings and the father is echoing the poet’s own worldly wisdom. The poet tells us that we should keep our calm when others around us are losing their patience. He details that we should trust ourselves when men all around us doubt us but we should be open enough to accept their criticisms. The poet says that we should wait and not get tired of waiting and if we are lied to, we shouldn’t deal in lies or being hated shouldn’t give way to hating others. We shouldn’t look as if we are too good or talk as if we are too wise.

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;  
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;  
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;  
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

The poet tells us to dream but we shouldn’t get lost in our dreams so as to not work on our aims at all. We should think but shouldn’t restrict ourselves to just thinking. We should accept triumphs and disasters just the same. We should have the ability to hear the truth that we have spoken being manipulated into something else by deceitful people to trap gullible people. We should have to ability to accept the things that have given our life to, fall into pieces but we should stoop and start rebuilding them with our tired self.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,  
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

We should have the ability to gamble all of our winnings and if we lose, we should start again and never breathe a word about the losses we may have suffered. We should force our tired and old body to keep going even when we are old. We should hold on when we have nothing left in us except the inner will which says us not to give up.

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,  
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,  
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,  
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

We should have the ability to talk with varied people and not lose our true virtue. We should walk with Kings but not lose our common roots. The poet says if neither our enemies nor friends can’t hurt us and if we can have the ability to keep going despite adverse circumstances such as a bad period of time where nothing goes right for us then we will truly be a Man.


The Masefield Way To Survive!

The purpose of explaining this poem albeit through my interpretation becomes even more vital when all hope seems lost in this raging Covid-19 pandemic.
Happy reading and remember to laugh and be merry like John Masefield had asked of us.

Laugh and be merry, remember, better the world with a song,
Better the world with a blow in the teeth of a wrong.
Laugh, for the time is brief, a thread the length of a span.
Laugh and be proud to belong to the old proud pageant of man.

The poet asks us to be cheerful and be joyous for the world is better with songs instead of sighs. The world is better with shunning the wrongs of the world. The poet asks us to laugh for the time is brief and our time is like short like a thread. The poet asks us to laugh and be proud to belong to the mystical miracle that is mankind.

Laugh and be merry: remember, in olden time.
God made Heaven and Earth for joy He took in a rhyme,
Made them, and filled them full with the strong red wine of
His mirth
The splendid joy of the stars: the joy of the earth.

The poet asks us to laugh and be happy and remember that God had made heaven and Earth to abound in joy. God as if joyous to music tried to replicate the rhyme by making mankind and filled them with red wine, symbolic of the Christian notion of life and blood. He filled mankind with his happiness, the joy of the stars and the joy of the Earth.

So we must laugh and drink from the deep blue cup of the sky,
Join the jubilant song of the great stars sweeping by,
Laugh, and battle, and work, and drink of the wine outpoured
In the dear green earth, the sign of the joy of the Lord.

So the poet says that as God as meticulously made humans with so much effort we must laugh and cherish our moments on Earth represented by drinking from the deep blue cup of the sky. We must join in the celebration and songs of the great shooting stars. We must live our lives to the fullest by being happy, battling and working our way against odds and cherish the life given to us like the red wine. The poet says that our Earth is dear for it is proof and symbol of the bountiful joy of God.

Laugh and be merry together, like brothers akin,
Guesting awhile in the rooms of a beautiful inn,
Glad till the dancing stops, and the lilt of the music ends.
Laugh till the game is played; and be you merry, my friends.

The poet repeats himself by asking us to laugh and sway with joy. We must live together in peace and harmony like brothers and like guests in the beautiful inn that is the Earth. We must be glad till the dancing stops and the music ends, which means we must never take life for granted and cherish it till it lasts and laugh joyously till the game of life draws to a close.

Stop for death? Nah!

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

The eternal date, the gentlemen with unmatched conduct! The speaker could barely spare any time for Death so death took pity on her and kindly stopped to greet and tag her along with him. The speaker climbed in Death’s carriage, which held just the two of them and Eternal Life.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –

They drove the carriage quite slow and  Death seemed to be in no hurry. Seeing Death’s courteous behaviour she put away all her work and pleasures. She wanted to appear respectful and devote time to him for his sensible conduct.

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –

They crossed a school, where children played during their break time, huddled in a circle. Then they passed fields of crops and the sun as it was setting.

Or rather – He passed Us –
The Dews drew quivering and Chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –

The speaker then corrects herself by saying it was quite possible that instead of them passing the Sun, the Sun had probably passed them indicative of their lack of awareness. The night came and the dew formed. The speaker was feeling cold because she was wearing clothes not suited for the night. The night drawing, the sun setting, the cold enveloping her with Death for her company paints a sombre fatalistic picture of things to come.

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –

They stopped before a house which was partly buried in the ground. The speaker could barely see the roof and the ceiling seemed to be in the ground.

Since then – ’tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –

The speaker then proceeds to state that since that day, centuries have passed yet it feels that the entire duration has been less than a day for her when compared to the day she understood that the carriage was headed towards a never-ending eternity.

The poem brilliantly explores the inevitability of death yet Emily Dickinson paints a hue of positivity with the vivid imagery that doesn’t fail to delight. The beauty of the poem lies in the ambiguity surrounding her existence. It is not clear to the reader as to whether the speaker is already dead or is headed towards death and the carriage journey is one last melody that she gets to enjoy. The comfort in death, the gateway from suffering has been subtly portrayed by Dickinson where Death has been portrayed as a considerate gentleman. The poem so soothing in appearance deceitfully hides its grim undertones.

The Gentle Fight?

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The first stanza opens with the speaker pleading to his dying father not to give up. He requests him to keep fighting, to keep burning and raving even when the day ends, to burn brightly even when the light starts to flicker and all hope seems to end.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

The poet says that the wise men know that death is a part of the inevitable circle of life but they should keep fighting for their words had not yet made a mark on this world, for they were yet to prove so much more. Thus the speaker says that no matter what people should keep fighting, to make a difference, to make their presence felt.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The poet talks of the ‘good men’. The good men are those who may have done a lot of good for the mankind but they feel that their deeds might have been in vain and if they had got a little more time their deeds might have been successful like dancing in a green bay. Thus during the last moments of their life like the last wave, they should also rage against all odds.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

There are some men who have spent their lives wildly by enjoying, celebrating and cherishing the beauty of life. They sang and learnt later that they have wasted their time and could have accomplished so much more. The sun in-flight’ means the moving sun that continuously goes from the east to the west. The wild men busy in cherishing the sunrise fail to realise that they are nearing the end of their life.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Grave men possibly refer to ailing people who are nearing to death and they lose their eyesight yet they remain strong in their mind. They realise that even though they are blind they could be passionate and blaze like meteors and be happy. Thus they also try to rage and fight against death.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The poet now addresses his father directly who is sad and is nearing his death. He asks his father to cry passionately which would be a form of catharsis and thus it would lighten his father’s sadness and that will be both as a curse and blessing for him. He requests him not to go gentle into the good night and thus he should fight and keep fighting against the flickering and feeble light of the life given to us.

Frost’s Road!

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

The first stanza begins with the poet stating that he had two choices presented metaphorically through the form of two roads diverging in a forest. However, he could only traverse one road. Thus he had to make a conscious decision and he contemplated between the two roads. He thus stood and looked down at one as far as he could to where the road bent in the forest.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

The poet takes the other road, having decided it to just as good as the first road and maybe even better than the first because it was greener and less worn than the other path. However, as he traverses the road the poet thinks maybe both the roads must be worn out equally due to travelling.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

The poet states that in the morning both the roads were equally covered with untrodden leaves which were not yet black which usually happens when someone steps on the leaves.
The poet exclaims that he kept the first road for another day when he would travel the first road. Yet the poet sadly knows that one road leads to another and it is very difficult to find one’s way back. This is a metaphor of the journey of life where one is led from one path to the journey and people rarely come back to where they once started. Thus the poet doubts as to whether he will ever come back to this place.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The poet then envisions himself that somewhere in the future he would be telling with a sigh that two roads diverged in an autumnal wood and he chose and dared to take the one less travelled and that has made all the difference and helped him become the person he is today.

The two roads depict the various choices that are sprung our way and the need to be unconventional at times in our choice. Following the crowd doesn’t always make much of a difference thus in an implicit manner Frost encourages the reader to dare to make choices that differ from the rest, the choices that very few people make, the road less travelled by!

An Introduction

I don’t know politics but I know the names
Of those in power, and can repeat them like
Days of week, or names of months, beginning with Nehru. I am Indian, very brown, born in Malabar,
I speak three languages, write in
Two, dream in one.
Don’t write in English, they said, English is
Not your mother-tongue. Why not leave
Me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins,
Every one of you? Why not let me speak in
Any language I like? The language I speak,
Becomes mine, its distortions, its queernesses
All mine, mine alone.
It is half English, Half Indian, funny perhaps, but it is honest,
It is as human as I am human, don’t
You see? It voices my joys, my longings, my
Hopes, and it is useful to me as cawing
Is to crows or roaring to the lions, it
Is human speech, the speech of the mind that is

The poem “An Introduction” by Kamala Das talks of the desires, the disappointment and the struggles that generally a traditional Indian woman had to face in her time. She says that she doesn’t know politics but can rant the names of all the politicians in the country. She introduces herself as Indian, detailing her skin tone, her place of stay and the language that she prefers to write. She talks of the people that criticize her for using English as a medium to express her thoughts. She says that she knows that her English isn’t perfect but English is able to express her thoughts better than any other language can for it gives voice to her aspirations, her troubles, joys. English is as useful to her as cawing is to crows or roaring is to lions.

Here and not there, a mind that sees and hears and
Is aware. Not the deaf, blind speech
Of trees in storm or of monsoon clouds or of rain or the
Incoherent mutterings of the blazing
Funeral pyre. I was child, and later they
Told me I grew, for I became tall, my limbs
Swelled and one or two places sprouted hair.
When I asked for love, not knowing what else to ask
For, he drew a youth of sixteen into the
Bedroom and closed the door, He did not beat me
But my sad woman-body felt so beaten.
The weight of my breasts and womb crushed me.
I shrank Pitifully.

She then moves to talk about puberty and the changes that took place in her physically and later emotionally. She talks of the disappointment she faced in love when she asked for love and was violated. She talks of the pregnancy that followed it when the weight of her breasts and womb crushed her.

Then … I wore a shirt and my
Brother’s trousers, cut my hair short and ignored
My womanliness. Dress in sarees, be girl
Be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook,
Be a quarreller with servants. Fit in. Oh,
Belong, cried the categorizers. Don’t sit
On walls or peep in through our lace-draped windows.
Be Amy, or be Kamala. Or, better
Still, be Madhavikutty. It is time to
Choose a name, a role. Don’t play pretending games.
Don’t play at schizophrenia or be a
Nympho. Don’t cry embarrassingly loud when
Jilted in love …

She then proceeds to tell the consequences of her physical violation at the age of 16. She started to crossdress by wearing a shirt and her brother’s trousers. She cut her hair short and ignored her womanliness which was a rebellion against her own sex. People then started to advise her to be a woman, dress in women clothing such as sarees, cook and be a wife. She was asked to quarrel with servants and fit in with the rest of the world. She was asked to fit in with the rest of the society and not bawl when left disappointment.

I met a man, loved him. Call
Him not by any name, he is every man
Who wants. a woman, just as I am every
Woman who seeks love. In him . . . the hungry haste
Of rivers, in me . . . the oceans’ tireless
Waiting. Who are you, I ask each and everyone,
The answer is, it is I. Anywhere and,
Everywhere, I see the one who calls himself I
In this world, he is tightly packed like the
Sword in its sheath. It is I who drink lonely
Drinks at twelve, midnight, in hotels of strange towns,
It is I who laugh, it is I who make love
And then, feel shame, it is I who lie dying
With a rattle in my throat. I am sinner,
I am saint. I am the beloved and the
Betrayed. I have no joys that are not yours, no
Aches which are not yours. I too call myself I.

She then proceeds to talk of a man she met and fell in love with. She then talks of how her lover was every man who sought a woman, “the hungry haste of rivers” just like she was every woman who seeks love. She talks of how her lover was impatient in love and she had all the patient in the world such as the “the oceans’ tireless waiting” She talks of the un-deluded freedom that a free woman or any soul for the matter could cherish, the various experiences that life has to offer.

The Nine Hearts Of Gold

The athletes had come from so many countries
To run for the gold and the silver and bronze
Many weeks and months in training
All building up to the games

The poem written by David Roth focusses on the athletes who have come from different parts of the world to compete and win either gold, silver or bronze medals. They have trained for months to participate in the events with the hopes of winning.

All round the field spectators were gathered
Cheering on all the young women and men
Then the final event of the day was approaching
The last race about to begin

People had gathered to watch and cheer the young men and women. The final event of the day was approaching and the final race was about to begin.

The loudspeakers called out the names of the runners
The one hundred metres the race to be run
And nine young athletes stood there determined
And poised for the sound of the gun

The names of the runners who would be taking part in the race was announced. The nine participants were determined to win the competition and poised themselves at the starting point, waiting for the sound of the gun to signal the start of the race.

The signal was given, the pistol exploded
And so did the runners on hearing the sound
But the youngest among them stumbled and staggered
And he fell on his knees to the ground

The pistol was fired and the race began. The runners charged ahead but one of the runners who was the youngest of the lot stumbled and fell to his knees the ground.

He gave out a cry of frustration and anguish
His dreams and his efforts dashed in the dirt
But as sure as I’m standing here telling the story
Now it’s a strange one, but here’s what occurred

The fallen athlete cried out in anguish and disappointment. His dreams had come to an end. However, something occurred which was quite strange.

The eight other athletes stopped in their tracks
The ones who had trained for so long to compete
One by one they turned round and came back to help him
And lifted the lad to his feet

The eight other athletes who were ahead of him stopped to help him back to his feet.
The other runners who had trained so hard and so long to compete for turned back to help the fallen athlete. This shows their unselfish selves and their compassion for a fellow competitor.

Then all nine runners joined hands and continued
The one hundred metres reduced to a walk
And the banner above that said “Special Olympics”
Could not have been nearer the mark

The hundred-metre race was reduced to a walk as the nine competitors joined hands to cross the finishing line together. The banner which showed that it was special Olympics couldn’t have been more accurate for it eas indeed a special gesture by all the competitors of that race.

That’s how the race ended, with nine gold medals
They came to the finish line holding hands still
Thus the race ended with nine athletes holding their hands right to the finishing mark. They won nine gold medals – one for each — very deservingly.

And the banner above and nine smiling faces
Said more than these words ever will
Said more than these words ever will

All the nine runners won the gold medal as all of them finished the race together and they stood smiling under the banner that rightly declared it as  ‘Special Olympics’.

This poem showcases the need to be compassionate towards the less fortunate and those who struggle and fall down.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

“I know why the caged bird sings” or “Caged Bird” is a poem about social disparity and injustice. Maya Angelou uses the metaphor of birds to represent her contemporary society wherein discrimination was widely prevalent. The African-American community was marginalised by the White Americans. She juxtaposes between the bird in captivity and the free bird soaring and claiming the sky. The free bird is free to do whatever it wants and soars in the free sky while the caged bird can only imagine doing so.

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind  
and floats downstream  
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

The free bird soars the sky with the wind on its back to help it along and floats downstream till the current ends. This shows that it can traverse any amount of distance without any restriction. It is free to dip his sings in the orange rays of the sun and claim that the sky is his own.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and  
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

In contrast, the caged bird lies helpless, ignored and desperate. He stalks down his narrow cage which suggests that in contrast to the bountiful endless sky, the caged bird is suffocating for lack of space. The clear disparity and duality of freedom are explicit in the first two stanzas. The caged bird can hardly and seldom see through the bars of his cage. There isn’t much to see when one is caged and the lack of freedom fills him with rage at the injustice. The bars of rage can also be a metaphor of the social discrimination where the Afro-Americans were treated with contempt and disgust and they moulded the cage with hatred in their hearts and rage. The caged bird’s wings are clipped and his feet are tied, suggestive of the inhumanity and actions which go against nature. Bereft of flight and the ability to walk, the caged bird is only left with the option to sing.

The caged bird sings  
with a fearful trill  
of things unknown  
but longed for still  
and his tune is heard  
on the distant hill  
for the caged bird  
sings of freedom.

The caged bird is even afraid to sing. The lack of freedom and fear of punishment has left it scarred and it sings feebly and fearfully of things unknown. The bird sings of the things that he wanted to see but was unable to. The song and the tune of the caged bird are heard at a distance on the hill. The song manages to traverse and travel to the distant hill because the bird cries and sings of freedom that he was being unable to attain.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

The free bird thinks of another breeze, another place where it could visit. The free bird thinks of the trade winds blowing through the trees and the fat worms that it could enjoy on a dawn bright lawn. The free birds name the sky his own as he is free to do whatever it wants and thus thinks of himself as the master of the sky.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams  
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream  
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied  
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird, however, doesn’t have the freedom to think of the “trade winds” and the worms on a “dawn bright lawn” because his dreams have been snatched away. The bird has been caged, his power of flight has been snatched away and his feet have been tied. The bird is a prisoner and thus his dreams are good as dead in a grave. Through the repetition of the line, “his wings are clipped and his feet are tied” in the fourth stanza, Maya Angelou stresses the lack of freedom of the caged bird. Maya Angelou through the metaphor of the caged bird tells us that the Afro-Americans didn’t have much of a choice than to be mere prisoners in the hands of the cruel discriminatory White Americans.

The caged bird sings  
with a fearful trill  
of things unknown  
but longed for still  
and his tune is heard  
on the distant hill  
for the caged bird  
sings of freedom.

The refrain (3rd and 6th stanza) highlights the bird’s determination to keep singing despite the adverse circumstances. This poem can be a representation of the poet’s own cry and expression of freedom. Maya Angelou can well be regarded as the caged bird in the poem. Through the use of the metaphor, the poem compares caged birds to the African Americans fighting for equality during the civil rights movement.

The Bangle Sellers- The Indian Journey!

Bangle sellers are we who bear
Our shining loads to the temple fair…
Who will buy these delicate, bright
Rainbow-tinted circles of light?
Lustrous tokens of radiant lives,
For happy daughters and happy wives.

Some are meet for a maiden’s wrist,
Silver and blue as the mountain mist,
Some are flushed like the buds that dream
On the tranquil brow of a woodland stream,
Some are aglow with the bloom that cleaves
To the limpid glory of newborn leaves

Some are like fields of sunlit corn,
Meet for a bride on her bridal morn,
Some, like the flame of her marriage fire,
Or, rich with the hue of her heart’s desire,
Tinkling, luminous, tender, and clear,
Like her bridal laughter and bridal tear.

Some are purple and gold flecked grey
For she who has journeyed through life midway,
Whose hands have cherished, whose love has blest,
And cradled fair sons on her faithful breast,
And serves her household in fruitful pride,
And worships the gods at her husband’s side.

The Bangle sellers has been written by the Indian poet Sarojini Naidu. The poem delves into the different stages in the life of an Indian woman, the culture and traditions.

The central point of concern in this poem is bangles and the poet showcases the growth and different stages of the Indian woman’s life through the different bangles. The Bangle sellers selling the different tinted bangles to the temple fair are just a medium through which Naidu communicates and reveals the growth of a young girl to a mature woman nursing a child.

The Bangle is a jewel that reflects the Indian culture and the repetition of the word happy in the first stanza shows that bangles are associated with joyful occasions when girls and women dress up and participate in celebrations like marriage, festivals etc.

The bangles are called delicate in the first stanza which is reflective of the girl in her younger years. The bangles are said to be blooming and flushing in the second stanza which reflects the young girl growing up into a maiden. The bangles are described to be bright and fiery and rich like the heart’s desire reflective of the married Indian woman. The words “grey”, “journeyed”, “cherished” shows the woman has journeyed her life halfway.

The bridal laughter and bridal tear is the transition from the young maidenhood to marriage when the woman has to leave her house to stay with her husband in the Indian setting. The cradling of fair sons is problematic in the current context. It brings out the evil of male preference and the killing of the girl child. Had Naidu replaced the word sons with “children” the poem would have been more visionary and in touch with the postmodern setting. However, her apt use of sons paints the true contemporary picture of the Indian society where everyone preferred sons to daughters.

The word happy wives is debate worthy. Naidu uses the word happy in general to describe the joy that comes with ornaments however a closer reading tells us that wives are expected to be happy and it doesn’t seem to give them a choice. To dwell on a sarcastic idiom it seems that happiness as an abstract is thrust upon them instead of it being exuded independently by the married woman. The traditional Indian setting didn’t allow married women to fully exercise their independence and was often suppressed by the in-laws to abide by the household customs irrespective of the wife’s opinion. The wife was moulded into the in-laws’ customs and this often led them to be unhappy but they were neither given the independence to revolt nor express sorrow.

Browning’s Icarus

The Patriot

It was roses, and roses all the way
With myrtle mixed in my path like mad:
The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway,
The church-spires flamed, such flags they had,
A year ago on this very day.

The air broke into a mist with bells,
The old walls rocked with the crowd and cries.
Had I said, “Good folk, mere noise repels —
But give me your sun from yonder skies!”
They had answered, “And afterward, what else?”

Alack, it was I who leaped at the sun
To give it my loving friends to keep!
Nought man could do, have I left undone:
And you see my harvest, what I reap
This very day, now a year is run.

There’s nobody on the house-tops now—
Just a palsied few at the window set
For the best of the sight is, all allow,
At the shambles’ gate— or, better yet
By the scaffold’s very foot, I trow.

I go in the rain, and, more than needs,
A rope cuts my wrists behind;
And I think, by the feel, of my forehead bleeds
For they fling, whoever has a mind,
Stones at me for my year’s misdeeds.

          -Robert Browning

The duality of character and the hypocritical nature of the people comes to the fore in the poem ‘The Patriot’ by Browning. The same people who had once loved him and showered him with roses and myrtle are now taking him to the scaffold to hang him for his misdeeds.
The fickle nature of people is evident in the poem which is brought out by Browning’s thought-provoking monologue. The people who once showered flowers upon him are now flinging stones on him.

Unlike the first stanza, now the place is all empty. There is nobody on the roof-tops cheering him. Only old men who are affected by palsy and unable to cross the threshold of their houses are watching the patriot as he marches towards the gallows. The rest of the people have gathered at the Shambles’s gate to see him die. The duality and ever-changing nature of the people are starkly evident in this incident.

The poet is reminiscing the past where exactly a year ago he was filled with joy as he was being showered with love by the people and given a grand welcome for returning victorious from the war in the first stanza.

The poet establishes the popularity he had in the second stanza where people were rejoicing by ringing bells and the entire atmosphere was thick with its noise. They were cheering for the patriot with their cries rocking the walls. The patriot says if he had asked for anything from the people he would have been granted the wish.

The patriot in the third stanza is seeing ruling his fate. He says that like Icarus he had attempted an ambitious and dangerous task for his country. A note of fatality is seeing in the patriot when he talks of his “harvest” and having to “reap” for his actions. He seems to have submitted himself to his ultimate fate in this stanza.

The roses that are used to welcome the poet is symbolic of the love showered upon him by the people, and myrtle, in Victorian times, symbolized victory and glory. Thus the poet is showered with love from the people and given a grand welcome for returning victorious from the war yet the ending of the poem turns into a gory picture with the patriot bleeding just like Icarus’ waxen wings felt in the face of the Sun.