Fire Hymn
 

BSEB Class 12 English Poem 8 Fire-Hymn Summary, Explanation, and Question Answers from Rainbow Book 

 

Fire-Hymn – BSEB Class 12 English Poem 8 Fire-Hymn Summary and detailed explanation of the poem along with meanings of difficult words from Rainbow Book. Also, the explanation is followed by the literary devices used in the Poem. All the exercises and Question Answers given at the back of the lesson have also been solved.

 

BSEB Class 12 English Rainbow Book Poem 8 – Fire-Hymn

By Keki N. Daruwalla

Fire-Hymn Introduction

‘Fire Hymn’ is composed by the poet ‘Keki N. Daruwalla’ who is the recipient of Sahitya Akademi Award and Commonwealth poetry Award. Keki N. Daruwala is an Indo Anglian poet. He is a Parsi. He wrote poems in his own words. In this poem he tells us about a burning ghat.

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Fire-Hymn Summary

The poem Fire-Hymn is written by Keki. N. daruwala. In the poem the poet describes the scene of a burning Ghat. The poet explains about a ghat where dead bodies were burnt. The ghat was surrounded all around with fire and was burning because it was busy engulfing the dead bodies. The passerby and passengers were frightened because of the wandering ghost lights erupting from the ghat. Moonlight ran fast among the dead bodies. In the morning the poet went to the ghat along with his father. The ghat was situated near the bank of a river. The poet witnessed embers which were the pieces of wood and coal which lost their redness of the fire and only grey ashes were left. Half cooked limbs suggested that half of the bodies were burnt and half were still left. 

In the second stanza of the poem the poet witnessed the immoral behaviour of the fire because dead bodies were not completely burnt. It was an immoral behavior of the fire. The poet’s father said to him that he could witness half burnt fingers and how the bone remains that had not been burnt were left at the ghat. The poet then said that it seemed sometimes that fire forgot that it was dead. The poet disclosed his religion that he was a Zorastrian, which was a Parsi religion, who believed that there was a continuing struggle in the world between the forces of light and dark and in his religion fire was worshiped so his child fingers clenched with pain. The poet could not see the sins of fire because he was a child and he swore to save fire from the sin of forgetting its dead. 

In the third stanza of the poem the poet described an incident of his life. Twenty years later,  the poet was no longer a child but one whose eldest child died and he consigned his first born to fire. As the poet mentioned above about his religion, dead ones were not burnt in fire but they were kept on the Tower of Silence. The Tower of Silence is the structure where Parsis dispose of the dead bodies and the nearest Tower of Silence was a thousand miles away. So he committed a sin against his religion and submitted his child to fire. The fire- hymn, which was a religious song or poem to  praise God, said to the poet that he had been forgiven. The poet was broken yet he was unwilling to obey the rules and once again, he swore to save the fire from committing the sin of forgiving.

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Video Explanation of Fire-Hymn

 

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Fire-Hymn Poem Explanation

 

The burning ghat erupted phosphorescence:

and wandering ghost lights frightened passers-by

as moonlight scuttled among the bones.

Once strolling at dawn past river-bank and ghat

we saw embers losing their cruel redness

to the grey ash that swallows all, half-cooked limbs

Phosphorescence- light emitted by a substance without combustion or perceptible heat.

Hymn- a song of praise

Erupted- break out, thrown out

Scuttled- scurry, run fast

Strolling- walking, leisurely

Embers- pieces of wood or coal that are not burning but are still red

​​In the first stanza of the poem Fire-Hymn written by Keki N. Daruwalla, the poet, explained about a ghat where dead bodies were burnt. The ghat was surrounded by fire and was burning because it was busy engulfing the dead bodies. The passerby and passengers were frightened because of the wandering ghost lights erupted from the ghat. Moonlight ran fast among the dead bodies by which the poet meant that night was visible but still people were afraid because of the ghat which was continuously burning. In the morning the poet went to the ghat along with his father. The ghat was situated near the bank of a river. The poet witnessed embers which were the pieces of woods and coals which lost their redness of the fire and only grey ashes were left. Half cooked limbs suggested that half of the bodies were burnt and half were still left. 

 

bore witness to the fire’s debauchery.

My father said, “You see those half-burnt fingers 

And bone-stubs? The fire at times forgets its dead!”

A Zoroastrian I, my child -fingers clenched

Into a little knot of pain,

I swore to save fire

From the sin of forgetfulness. 

Debauchery- immoral behaviour

Stubs- the remains that have not been burnt

Zoroastrian- a Parsi, who believes that there is a continuing struggle in the world between the forces of light and dark

Clenched- closed into a tight ball

In the second stanza of the poem the poet witnessed the debauchery of the fire because dead bodies were not completely burnt. It was the debauchery or immoral behavior of the fire. The poet’s father said to him that he could witness half burnt fingers and how the bone remains that had not been burnt were left at the ghat. The poet then said that it seemed sometimes that fire forgot that it was dead. The poet disclosed his religion that he was a Zorastrian, which was a Parsi religion, who believed that there was a continuing struggle in the world between the forces of light and dark and in his religion fire was worshiped so he tightened his fingers into a tight ball and they were in pain due to the extreme pressure with which he closed them. The poet could not see the sins of fire because he was a child and he swore to save fire from the sin of forgetting its dead. 

 

It never forgot, and twenty years since

As I consigned my first-born to the flames —

The nearest Tower of Silence was a thousand miles –

The firm-hymn said to me, “You stand forgiven,” 

Broken, yet rebellious, I swore this time

To save it from the sin of forgiving. 

Consigned- sent off, delivered

Tower of Silence- The Parsis dispose of the dead bodies on this structure

Hymn- a religious song or poem of praise to God or a god.

Rebellious- unwilling to obey rules

Swore- took oath (for something)

In the third stanza of the poem the poet described an incident of his life. Twenty years later,  the poet was an adult whose eldest child died and he consigned his first born’s body to fire, upon his death. As the poet mentioned above about his religion, dead ones were not burnt in fire but they were kept on the Tower of Silence. The Tower of Silence is the structure where Parsis dispose of the dead bodies and the nearest Tower of Silence was a thousand miles away. So he committed a sin against his religion and submitted his child to fire. The fire- hymn, which was a religious song or poem to  praise God, said to the poet that he had been forgiven. The poet was broken yet he was unwilling to obey the rules and once again he swore to save the fire from committing the sin of forgiving the dead.

 

Poetic/Literary Devices

 

Following poetic/literary devices have been used in the poem Fire-Hymn:

 

  1. Anaphora: Anaphora is the repetition of a word at the start of consecutive lines like ‘The’ is being repeated at the start of both the lines-

‘The’ nearest Tower of Silence was a thousand miles –

‘The’ firm-hymn said to me, “You stand forgiven,”

2.Personification: Personification is giving human characteristics to animals or non-living things. Here in the poem, ‘bore witness to the fire’s debauchery’. Poet personifies the debauchery or immoral behavior of the fire. 

3.Enjambment – when a sentence continues in more than 1 line and there is no punctuation mark at the end of the line. 

Once strolling at dawn past river-bank and ghat

we saw embers losing their cruel redness

to the grey ash that swallows all, half-cooked limbs

4.Rhyme scheme- the poem is written in free verse

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Fire-Hymn Question Answer

 

Exercises

B.1 1. Read the following sentences and write ‘T’ for true and ‘F’ for false statements:

a) The poem describes the scene of a burning .

b) Passers-by tend to ignore the burning at the ghat.

c) The sight of burning becomes frightening at night.

d) The redness of fire appears cruel to the speaker.

e) The half-burnt limbs at the ghat suggest the true working of fire.

f) The speaker belongs to Zoroastrian religion.

g) The speaker is not pleased with the views of his father.

h) The ‘first-born child’ was consigned to fire under compulsion.

Answer-

a) The poem describes the scene of a burning . True

b) Passers-by tend to ignore the burning at the ghat. False

c) The sight of burning becomes frightening at night. True

d) The redness of fire appears cruel to the speaker. True

e) The half-burnt limbs at the ghat suggest the true working of fire. True

f) The speaker belongs to Zoroastrian religion. True

g) The speaker is not pleased with the views of his father. False

h) The ‘first-born child’ was consigned to fire under compulsion. True

 

B.1 2. Complete the following sentences on the basis of the poem:

  1. a) The wandering ghost lights …………..  passer-by.
  2. b) The grey ash that ……………..  all.
  3. c) The ghat is littered with …………… .
  4. d) The fire at times ……………..  its dead.
  5. e) I swore to save fire from the ………….  of forgetfulness.
  6. f) The nearest ……………….. was a thousand miles.
  7. g) The speaker consigned his ……….  to the flames.
  8. h) The speaker was broken yet ……………….
  9. i) The second time the speaker swore to save the fire from the sin of  ……….. . 

Answer-

  1. a) The wandering ghost lights frightened passer-by.
  2. b) The grey ash that swallows
  3. c) The ghat is littered with embers .
  4. d) The fire at times forgets its dead.
  5. e) I swore to save fire from the sin of forgetfulness.
  6. f) The nearest tower was a thousand miles.
  7. g) The speaker consigned his first-born to the flames.
  8. h) The speaker was broken yet rebellious.
  9. i) The second time the speaker swore to save the fire from the sin of  forgiving

 

B.1 3. Answer the following questions briefly:

1) How did the passer-by get frightened?

Answer-

The passer-by got frightened to see the phosphorescent fire, the dreadful scenes at the ghat and wandering ghost lights in the burning ghat at night. 

 

2) Which event does the expression ‘the burning ghat’ refer to?

Answer-

The expression “the burning ghat” refers to the place where dead- bodies are usually cremated.

 

3) Where do you think is the ghat located?

Answer-

The ghat is located near the bank of a river.

 

4) What does the speaker see/observe in the morning at the ghat?

Answer-

The speaker observes Half-cooked limbs which are the left-overs of the dead body and the pieces of wood and coal, which are losing their redness from the fire and only grey ashes are left in the morning at the ghat.

 

5) Why does he say that the redness of the fire is cruel?

Answer-

The poet says that the redness of the fire is cruel because it swallows everything and turns it into ash or embers. The fire stings, burns and it spares nothing.

 

6) In what sense does the fire forget its dead?

Answer-

The fire forgets its dead when it leaves the body half-burnt. The poet describes in the poem that the fire has an immoral behavior.

 

7) Why does the speaker reveal his religious identity?

Answer-

The speaker reveals his religious identity because he did not cremate his first born’s body by his custom in which the body is disposed of on a structure called ‘Tower of silence instead he consigns his first born to fire. The poet is a Zorastrian. He reveals his religious identity to make this point clear.

 

8) Why did he consign his first born to the flames?

Answer-

He consigned his firstborn to the flames because the poet was a Parsi and in his culture the bodies are disposed of on a structure called “Tower of silence” and the nearest “Tower of Silence”, was a thousand miles away. So, he could not dispose of the dead-body of his first-born-child in that place.

 

9) What did the firm-hymn say to him?

Answer-

The fire- hymn, which was a religious song or poem to praise God, said to the poet that he had been forgiven. The poet was broken yet he was unwilling to obey the rules and once again the poet, he swore to save the fire from committing the sin of forgiving. The poet had taken oath to overlook and pardon him this time for the sin he committed.

 

C.1. LONG ANSWER QUESTIONS

  1. What are the different forms and roles of fire at the ghat?

Answer-

The different forms and roles of fire at the ghat are that the ghat is surrounded all around with fire and is burning because it is busy engulfing the dead bodies. The passerby and passengers are frightened because of the wandering ghost lights erupted from the ghat. The other form and role of fire at the ghat that the poet witnesses is the embers which are the pieces of woods and coals which lose their redness of the fire and only grey ashes are left. 

 

  1. How does the ghat appear to the common people?

Answer-

Ghat appears to be haunted by ghosts. It is a very scary place for common people. The ghat is surrounded all around with fire and is burning because it is busy engulfing the dead bodies. The passerby and passengers are frightened because of the wandering ghost lights erupted from the ghat. The scene of the ghat is most dreadful. Moonlight runs fast among the dead bodies but still people are afraid because of the ghat which was continuously burning.

 

  1. What is the fire’s debauchery?

Answer-

The fire’s debauchery is its immoral behavior because it sometimes leaves a few bodies half-burnt. It leaves some parts half-burnt like fingers and bones and the remains are left at the ghat. It seems sometimes that fire forgets that it is dead. 

 

  1. What has offended the religious sentiment of the speaker when he was a child?

Answer-

The speaker’s religious sentiment got offended when he saw a dead body being cremated. The speaker happens to be a “Parsi” by religion. This custom is against his religious tradition, dead ones were not burnt in fire but they were kept on the Tower of Silence. The Tower of Silence was the structure where Parsis dispose of the dead bodies. He noticed the brutality and the immoral behavior of the fire. As such it has offended the religious sentiment of the speaker when he was a child.

 

  1. Why do you think the speaker consigned his first born to the flames?

Answer-

The speaker is a Parsi by religion and dead ones are not burnt in fire according to his religion but they are kept on the Tower of Silence. The Tower of Silence is the structure where Parsis dispose of the dead bodies and the nearest Tower of Silence is a thousand miles away. So he commits a sin against his religion and submits his child to fire. 

 

  1. Why was the speaker ‘broken’ and how did he regard himself rebellious?

Answer-

The speaker was broken because he lost his first-born child and he had to go against his Parsi culture and tradition as he did not cremate his first-born’s body by his culture. He had to consign the body to the flames and it was very difficult and painful for him to experience this.  This great loss had broken him and he regarded himself rebellious for going against his religious tradition.

 

  1. Why did he swear twice to save the fire from two different sins?

Answer-

He swore twice to save fire from two different sins. The first time he swore because he consigned his firstborn child to the flames and as he was a ‘Parsi’ by religion, he had to go against his Parsi culture and tradition as he did not cremate his first-born’s body by his culture because his religious place to perform rituals for the sad demise of his child was thousand miles away. The fire had forgotten that he is a ‘Parsi’ because fire deals equally with everybody irrespective of their caste, creed, or religion. So he swore to save fire from the sin of forgetfulness. The next time he swore to save the fire from the sin of forgiving for its deviation. As such he swore twice to save the fire from two different sins.

 

  1. Though the poem reveals the religious leaning of a Parsi, it still has its human appeal. Justify it with your own comments. 

Answer-

The poem reveals the religious leaning of a Parsi. They have a custom of cremating the dead bodies by burying them in the “Tower of Silence.” And it was very difficult for the poet to consign his first-born’s body to the flames due to which the poet made a human appeal by the poem and that is not to follow this custom of cremation which involves the body to be consigned to the flames. It is a fact that the poem primarily reveals the religious tendency of a “Parsi”. But at the same time, it has a compassionate appeal to humanity. As a poet and a human being, he has thrown light on this burning problem. It appears to be the most unpleasant, pathetic, and gruesome practice to offer the dead-body to the flames of the fire. But this custom is in the Hindu Culture and in my opinion, this custom of cremation has its own significance. It’s not just the fire on which the body is set to be burnt but the air and soil and water and sky, all these five elements are given back to the body in different forms. The body is consigned to the flames, the smoke caused by the fire reaches to the sky, the ash and is to be flowed in water. So this tradition has its own importance in Hindu culture. It is the process and it is not as painful or hurting for the Hindus because they know its importance.

 

C.3. COMPOSITION

Write a short essay in about 150 words on the following:

a.Concept of sin in modern life

Answer-

The concept of sin is the concept of a human fault that offends a good God and brings with it human guilt. From the point of view of good and evil, our desires should correspond to God’s Will. According to the research, binge-drinking, domestic violence, tax evasion, racism, terrorism, bullying and bigotry constitute seven deadly sins in today’s society. The nature of the original sin is not the mere assertion of the fact that a human is sinful since early childhood. In fact, there is hardly a person who walks with God. Practically every person disobeys to a variable degree God’s laws. We do not realize that God gives us an opportunity for salvation. Corruption is one of the biggest modern sins in the present era. Money that is meant to benefit the people is diverted to the pockets of corrupt government officials and their conspirators. It can lead to death and damage of property when corrupt government officials allow corporations to destroy the environment that causes flooding, air pollution, and climate changes. Hence people should abstain from involving in modern sins.

 

b.Forgetfulness is a matter of habit

Answer-

Memory is a fickle thing. Everyone forgets things every now and then, but if you are often forgetful with important things just out of grasp in your mind or words right on the tip of your tongue it can feel debilitating and beyond frustrating. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily happen overnight. Some bad habits take weeks, or years, to take a toll. But it’s still important to always remember the mind/body connection. Brain health, as any other part of the body, is directly related to how we treat ourselves. The habit of forgetting might feel like a betrayal. Just as physical activity helps keep the body in shape, mentally stimulating activities help keep the brain in shape and might keep memory loss at bay. Sleep plays an important role in helping to consolidate the memories, so one can recall them down the road. Make getting enough sleep a priority. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a day.

 

D.WORD STUDY

D.1. Dictionary Use

 

Ex. 1. Correct the spelling of the following words:

  

 

phosphorescence scutled staulling emberes
Zorastrian consined rebelious hym

Answer-

 

Phosphorescence-

Phosphorescence 

Scutled- 

Scuttled 

Staulling-

Strolling 

Emberes-

Embers 

Zorastrian-

Zoroastrian 

Consined-

Consigned 

Rebelious-

Rebellious 

Hym-

Hymn 

 

Ex. 2. Look up a dictionary and write the synonyms of the following words:

 

dawn __________ losing _________
swallow ________ forget _________
pain ___________ nearest ________
silence _________  save __________

 

Answer-

 

Dawn  – Daylight Losing- Misplace
Swallow-  Consume Forget- Let slip
Pain- Suffering Nearest- Closest
Silence- Quietness Save- Preserve

 

  

D.2. Word-formation

Read the following line carefully:

The burning ghat erupted phosphorescence:

And wandering ghost lights frightened passers-by

 

In the above lines ‘burning’ in ‘burning ghats’ and ‘wandering’ in ‘wandering ghost’ are verbs in ‘—ing’ (gerund) form. Such forms of verbs can be used as adjectives. Add ‘-ing’ to the following verbs and fill in the blanks to complete the following sentences:

 

lose stroll cook swear break

 

  1. The ————– news was quite sensational.
  2. People were in long queue for —————— gas.
  3. The match was so fine that we admired even the ————– team.
  4. The ————— persons have the opportunity to breathe fresh air.
  5. We could not attend the ———– ceremony. 

Answer-

 

lose stroll cook swear break

 

  1. The breaking news was quite sensational.
  2. People were in a long queue for cooking gas.
  3. The match was so fine that we admired even the losing team.
  4. The strolling persons have the opportunity to breathe fresh air.
  5. We could not attend the swearing ceremony. 

 

D.3. Word-meaning

Ex 1. In the expression ‘half-cooked limb’ (line 6) and ‘half-burnt fingers’ (line 8), ‘half suggests the process stopped mid-way.

Make similar structures from the given words (using ‘half) and use them in sentences of your own:

done, written, sketched, drawn, hearted

Answer-

Words and sentences using ‘half’ are as follows-

  1. Half-done- Had there been a half-done sketch of hers in the cupboard that they had put in a parcel to be sent to Mrs Kelly at some later date?
  2. Half-written– she has sent me a half-written letter.
  3. Half-sketched– This is a half-sketched portrait
  4. Half-drawn-  He went quickly, to the half-drawn curtains and looked in. 
  5. Half-hearted- She made a half-hearted attempt to pull him away which was a failure. 

 

E.GRAMMAR

Ex. 1. Read the following lines from the poem carefully:

i.as moonlight scuttled among the bones.

ii.once strolling at dawn ….

Mark the use of prepositions ‘among’ and ‘at’ in the lines given above.

Use the following prepositions to complete the following sentences:

i.The military rescued several people ………… the flood.

ii.The world of insects and animals awake ………… at night

iii. Naghaz listened ………….  the lecture attentively.

iv.The prizes were distributed  …………. winners.

v.The police inquired …………………  the murder case. 

 

Answer-

i.The military rescued several people from the flood.

ii.The world of insects and animals awake up at night

iii. Naghaz listened to  the lecture attentively.

iv.The prizes were distributed  to winners.

v.The police inquired into the murder case. 

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