Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tackling poetry in Section D


SPM English: LESSON 12
By JENNY TAN

I am sure by now you are aware that only one poem will be tested in Section D of Paper 2. Make sure you have a complete understanding of all the poems so you are prepared for any one of them. This can be done by reading all the poems carefully and finding the meanings of difficult phrases and words. If possible, paraphrase the poems. This week, we shall look at two poems in detail to help you revise for the exam.

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN
by Robert Frost

Stanza 1

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;

Stanza 2

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,

Stanza 3

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.

Stanza 4

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 travelled by;
And that has made all the difference

Notes:

Stanza 1

The persona came across two roads in a forest in autumn. He felt sorry that he could not choose both roads. He looked as far as he could to see where one of the roads led. The under-growth (low-growing plants and shrubs beneath trees in a forest) prevented him from seeing further.

Stanza 2

Both roads seemed equally fresh and inviting that morning as no one had passed by yet. However, he decided to choose the second road only because fewer travellers had used it. Yet, after having taken that road, he felt it might have been just the same.

Stanza 3

He thought he could keep the first road for some other day. Yet, deep down, he knew that as one thing leads to something else, there might not be another opportunity to take that first road.

Stanza 4

The persona mused that one day in future he would probably realise he would have no regrets choosing the road less travelled by because it would have made his life more meaningful.

Answer the following questions:
1a. Where is the persona in the poem?
b. What season is suggested in line 1, stanza 1 above?
c. What is the decision the persona has to make?
2a. Explain the line ‘In leaves no step had trodden black’ in your own words.
b. Why did the second road have the better claim?
c. What did the persona find out about the second road after he had chosen it?
3a. What does the persona hope to do with the first road?
b. Why did the persona doubt that he would ever come back?
c. Which stanza of the poem do you like best? Give a reason to support your answer.

Suggested answers:
1a. In a forest
b. Autumn
c. He has to decide which of the two roads to take.
2 a. No one had stepped on the leaves yet.
b. Because it was still new and not many people had used it yet.
c. The road turned out to be the same as the first.
3a. He hoped to explore it another day.
b. Because one thing leads to another and he would not have the time or the chance to come back again.
c. Stanza 4, because he took the risk of taking the road less travelled and that has made all the difference in his life.

IF by Rudyard Kipling

Stanza 1
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;

Stanza 2
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;

Stanza 3
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!”

Stanza 4
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!

Notes:

Stanza 1
The father advises his son to:
- be calm at all times even though oth- ers are blaming him;
- trust himself when others doubt him; give them benefit of the doubt;
- be patient and not to lie even though others lie to him nor allow hate to come into his life;
- be humble as well as moderate in appearance and speech.

Stanza 2
The father advises his son to:
- dare to dream but not to let his dreams control him;
- think and act wisely but not to waste his life just merely thinking;
- treat success and failure the same way;
- not be upset when others distort his words.
Instead, he should be strong in times of failure and start rebuilding even if he may be tired.

Stanza 3
The father advises his son to:
- be prepared to take risks, and if he fails, he should not moan or com- plain about it.
- start again after each failure.
- continue to serve even though he may feel tired or hopeless.
- persevere and not to quit.

Stanza 4
The father advises his son to
- be virtuous and humble, to socialise with people from all walks of life;
- live harmoniously with others, treat- ing everyone the same;
- use every second wisely because time cannot be replaced;

If the son can achieve all these things, he will enjoy the blessings of the Earth and be a fine human being.

Answer the following questions:
1a. What does “keep your head” mean in line 1?
b. What does the phrase “make allowance for their doubting too” mean?
c. Why do you think the father advises his son not to give way to hating? Give a reason.
2a. In stanza 2, what does “triumph and disaster” refer to?
b. How should we treat triumph and dis- aster?
c. Do you agree with the father’s advice about triumph and disaster? Give a rea- son.
3a. Explain the phrase “keep your virtue” in stanza 4?
b. What does the word “Earth” refer to in this stanza?
c. Based on your knowledge of this poem, give two virtues the son must possess in order to be a “Man”.

Suggested answers:
1a. Keep your cool, do not lose your tem- per.
b. To give others the benefit of the doubt; to listen to their opinions.
c. Because hating will destroy him.
2a. Success and failure; the ups and downs of our lives.
b. We should treat them both equally; we should not get too carried away by suc- cess nor should we be overly sad about failure.
c. I agree that we should treat both suc- cess and failure equally because if we regard success as more important than failure, it would be difficult for us to accept failure.
3a. Be virtuous; to remain true to yourself.
b. It refers to the world’s richness and blessings.
c. He should be patient and not lose his head. (or any other two virtues stated in the poem.)

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