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The true business of living,” Nissim Ezekiel has written “is seeing touching, kissing, / The epic of walking in the street and loving on the bed. ” These lines are from a poem entitled “Conclusion”, these lines serve aptly for the introduction of a man whose true business over the last half of the 20th has been the making of verse. A poet of the city, Ezekiel has stridden the streets of Bombay, and revelled in the sensuous and inimitable pleasures of the companionship of women.
The contours of the city, the curves of the body, and the landscapes of the human mind: Ezekiel has transverse these terrains with equal facility, and for a very long time the English reading public has stood to benefit from Ezekiel’s numerous excursions into verse. Ezekiel’s first collection of verse “A Time to Change,” appeared in 1952, in the infancy of India’s emergence from the womb of British rule, and with it Indian poetry in English, which had long been pregnant with possibilities, finally found a voice that commanded attention.
A language placed in a foreign environment takes time to root itself, and at first finds expression with greater ease in prose than in verse, as the appearance of Raja Rao’s “Kanthapura” (1938) and G. V. Desani’s “All about H. Hatterr” (1948) showed. If we accept is never really of the soil until it flowers into poetry, then Ezekiel’s “A Time to Change” (1952) and “Sixty Poems” (1953) must be invested with even greater significance than we might ordinarily be inclined to ascribe to most works of poetry.
It is perhaps no accident either that the first blossoms of the birth and growth of modern Indian poetry should have come from the pen of a poet who, while very much and Indian, belongs to a community that in India was very small to begin with, and has in recent years become almost negligible, a veritable (absolute) drop in the vast ocean of the Indian population. Born in Bombay of Jewish parents, Ezekiel wrote in “Background, Casually” of how he “went to Roman Catholic school, / A mugging Jew among the wolves.
Ezekiel may have had to contend with his Jewishness, as any other Indian writer may have to contend with his caste, religion, or ethnic background but Ezekiel however appears not to have had to struggle, unlike many other Indian poets writing in English, over the choice of writing in one language or the other. English is, it may be supposed, Nissim Ezekiel’s language of mother-wit. (Natural intelligence) ANALYSIS OF ‘A POEM OF DEDICATION’ “The view of the basement rooms is rather small. A patch or two of green, a bit of sky, Children heard but never seen, an old wall,
Two trees, a washing line between windows With high curtains to block the outward eye…” So begins the poem- ‘A poem of Dedication’ and the poet without deferral stresses on the theme of limitations. The basement room is small and limiting, even the view is limited and all the poet can see is a patch or two of greenery and a bit of the blue sky. Children are heard but never seen and curtains block his view. Ezekiel wrote this poem about the experiences he had when he lived in a basement room in London and immediately he feels limited as he is in a foreign land.
Ezekiel uses the sea as a symbol of freedom as it is un-limiting and perhaps he seeks the sea as refuge from the limiting boundaries of his basement room. However the sea has two sides, a dichotomy which is prevalent in Ezekiel’s poetry. It can be calm but it also possesses a Demonic life within. He states all growth is slow as suggested by poetry and the organic. He again makes uses of duality of life and says there is a time to act and a time to contemplate. V. S. Naipaul says that- “My quarrel is that Ezekiel…
writes exclusively from the point of view of his own dilemma, his temperamental alienation from his mixed background, his choice, and his escape. That temperament is not universal, not even widely distributed, that choice is not open to all, the escape for most is not from the community but into it. To forget this is to be wholly subjective, wholly self-righteous, to think first and last of one’s own expectations, one’s extreme discomfort. ” In “A Poem of Dedication”, Nissim Ezekiel laid out his own manifesto eloquently: “I do not want the yogi’s concentration I do not want the perfect charity
Of saints nor the tyrant’s endless power I want a human balance humanly Acquired, fruitful in the common hour” Ezekiel lays out his own manifesto in the last paragraph of the poem as Naipaul points out. The poet is not greedy for power nor does he have the desire to achieve concentration or charity all he desires is “human balance humanly”. He then offers the poem to Queen Elizabeth in dedication. ANALYSIS OF ‘AFTER READING A PREDICTION’ The poet immediately takes a standpoint in the first line of the poem by stating- “I am not superstitious” which suggest perhaps he has a scientific bent mind.
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