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Keeping Quiet Summary, Explanation, Question Answers, NCERT Class 12 English Poem

CBSE NCERT Class XII English Poem - Keeping Quiet



Check out for CBSE NCERT Class XII English Poem - Keeping Quiet, Question Answers and New Words. The poem was originally written by Pablo Neruda in Spanish but later translated to English. Its main thrust was the significance of mindfulness, introspection and retrospection as these lead to attention, unity and brotherhood. It was an appeal to pause and really see that set in a mundane flurry of human habit; people are led to blindly perform what is expected of them while sadly not perceiving the impact to nature and society.

See Video for Explanation and Summary of the Poem

 

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About the Poet - Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda (1904 – 1973) was the ‘pen name’ and later, ‘legal name’ of this famous Chilean poet – diplomat – politician. He won the Noble prize for literature in the year 1971. He wrote in green ink which was his personal symbol for desire and hope.  His writings are simple, wherein lies their beauty.
Originally written in Spanish, the essence of this poem is based on introspection and retrospection. The poet feels that some soul – searching is needed for us to be at peace with ourselves and others.

 

Keeping Quiet Summary


“Keeping Quiet” is a peace poem written by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The poet asks humanity to count numbers from one to twelve - twelve being the number of hours shown in a clock or the number of zodiac signs. He requests everyone not to speak because languages create barriers between people. The moment when everyone stops moving their body will be very special and different as we have never experienced such a moment before.
The poet says that in this period of inactivity the fishermen would not harm the whales, the salt gatherers will not hurt their hands, those who are busy destroying the nature will adopt a new approach towards life, The men who are preparing for wars and victory based on deaths of innocent people will join their enemy and stand in unity with them, doing nothing. No one will harm himself or any other person. Everyone will unite and ponder upon his acts and realize the results of his deeds.
The poet clarifies his idea and says further that he does not want that people should stand idle. He wants that there should be no war because he does not want to see trucks laden with dead bodies of the soldiers. He is promoting Universal brotherhood and peace.
The poet says that everyone is working continuously, to achieve one’s goals. People are threatened by death and the fear forces them to work endlessly so that they can achieve everything quickly. In this mad rush, they do not realize the repurcutions of their acts. He wants us to pause and come out of the mad rush. He wants us to be happy about our achivements and celebrate them. He wants us to overcome the fear of death and to relax for a while. We should know the results of our deeds and celebrate our achievements.

When the people will remain quiet for a while, they will realize the purpose of their lives. Just like all the creations of nature undergo a rebirth with the change of seasons, similary, keeping quiet will be a rebirth for the human soul. It will give a new meaning to our life. Again, the poet says that he will count till twelve and asks everyone to remain quiet while he leaves.

 

Introduction to the lesson

The poem “Keeping Quiet” written by Pablo Neruda discusses the need of maintaining peace and silence. He stresses upon being quiet and harmless to the human beings, animals and environment. He suggests that in order to maintain peace and harmony, it is required to stop and introspect ourselves.

Rhyme scheme of the poem

The poem is written in free verse. It does not follow any rhyme scheme.

 


First stanza
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the Earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.


Keeping Quiet Explanation

  1. The poet asks everyone to count up to twelve in their mind. The number twelve represents the hours of the day or the months of a year.
  2. He wants all of us to be calm and still.
  3. People across the nations have to unite together, so, they shall not speak their own languages, rather they all shall keep quiet and speak the language of silence.
  4. This will bring unity among all the humans on the face of the Earth.
  5. For at least one moment, no one shall move his arms either to signal, or to fight, or argue with each other.

 

 

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The poet here requests everyone to count till twelve in their own mind and to stop for a while. May be this ‘twelve’ referred by the poet is the twelve hours in the clock or the twelve months in an year. He wants everyone to stop and calm down. The poet urges everyone not to speak any language.  As we all know that there are different languages spoken in different parts of the earth which sometimes become a barrier in our way for peace. So, he asks people not to speak. Not only this, he also wants us to stop moving our arms. By using the word ‘arms’ he means the weapons which are used by different countries to raise a war against each other. So basically the poet is demanding peace from all of us.

 

Literary devices:

Assonance: Use of vowel sound ‘o’ and ‘e’ (Now we will count to twelve, not move our arms so much)

Anaphora: Two consecutive lines starting with the word ‘Let’s’

let’s not speak in any language,

let’s stop for one second,

Alliteration: the repetition of a consonant sound at the start of 2 or more closely placed words.

‘we will’ - ‘w’ sound is repeated

 

Second stanza
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.


Explanation
When everything will come to a standstill, it will be a rare situation.

  1. No one will be in a rush, there will be no engines running.
  2. Everyone will be calm and quiet, united with each other in a strange atmosphere.
  3. It will be strange because it has never happened earlier.
  4.  No person would be harming any other living being either for food or to earn his livelihood.
  5. All the people who work endlessly will get some time to look at their injuries and the damage they have caused to their body.

 

Poet says that it would be a rare situation when there will be no engines working. Here he wants to stay that if everything comes to standstill, it will be a very different moment. If all the engines like the vehicles and machines stop, then there will be a sudden, strange situation as the world will experience a sudden calmness. People will not be in a rush to achieve material things one after another. Further the poet says that the fisherman will also stop and not harm whales in the sea. This means that the poet is urging everyone not to harm the animals. Here he gives the example of whales which are being hunted for the purpose of food or trade. He also wants people to calm down so that they can stop and see what they have achieved or lost. For this he gives the example of the man who gathers salt, whose hands are hurt. Here he wants everyone to stop for a while in order to see and feel their achievements and how much they have lost for the sake of attaining such materialistic things.

 

Literary devices:

Alliteration- ‘we would’ - ‘w’ sound is repeated, ‘sudden strangeness’ - ‘s’ sound is repeated, ‘his hurt hands’ - ‘h’ sound is repeated


 

Third stanza
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

 


Explanation

  1. The people who exploit the green wealth of nature by deforestation, or mining, or fishing in the deep seas and the soldiers who use weapons to kill fellow human beings need some time to introspect into the consequences of their actions. They are merely doing their job or following orders.
  2.  He wants them to put on ‘new clothes’ i.e. to adopt a new approach towards life and to realize that killing so many people is not a victory.
  3.  He wants all of us to be united as one, consider our enemy to be our brother.
  4.  He is promoting brotherhood, peace and unity.
  5.  He does not want us to stop our works but to take some time and analyze the results of our deeds.

 

The poet asks everyone to stop those activities which are damaging the environment. Today all the human beings are making money by damaging the environment with their activities such as mining, deforestation, letting the chemical waste into rivers, etc. The poet asks us not to do so. He also requests people not to involve in wars as there is no benefit of achieving such victory in which no one is left alive. He says so because wars and environmental damage will lead to no life on earth. Rather, he wants people to adopt a new approach towards life and mankind. He says that you should treat your enemy like brothers and promote peace and harmony in the world.

 

Literary devices:

Alliteration: ‘wars with’ - ‘w’ sound is repeated, ‘clean clothes’ - ‘c’ sound is repeated

Assonance: use of vowel ‘o’ (victory with no survivors, would put on clean clothes and walk about with their brothers)

Repetition: use of ‘war’


 

Fourth stanza
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could perhaps a huge silence       
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.


Explanation

  1. All human beings work endlessly with the aim of  completing all their tasks.
  2. They are driven by the target of survival and the threat of death.
  3. So they are in a mad rush to accomplish all  their  works.
  4. He says that perhaps, if they pause for a while, they can appreciate their achievements and their lives would become happier.
  5. He suggests that by keeping quiet, we will be able to understand the true purpose of our life.

 

Now the poet wants to clarify to his readers that when he asks them to stop from saying or doing anything, he doesn’t want anyone to become a non active person. Non active is a person who remains idle and doesn’t do anything. Here, he simply means that we should stop and see the consequences of our deeds. The poet doesn’t want to see people being killed due to their greed for money and expansion of territories.  Further, he says that people are continuously working to achieve their tasks without even thinking about their results. They are in fear of death and therefore, want to achieve most of the things before their death. Here he urges them to stop for a while and take some moment to relish on what they have achieved till now. Everyone here is living a life in which he wants to achieve various things one after another. But now the poet says it is the time to stop and see what has been achieved and should be enjoyed. This will help us skip the sadness which has become so prominent in our lives. The sadness of not enjoying what we have achieved and the greed to achieve what next is in the list to be achieved.

 

Literary devices

Alliteration: we were, so single - minded

enjambment: and for once could perhaps a huge silence……..of threatening ourselves with death.


 

Fifth stanza
Perhaps the Earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

 


Explanation
The poet suggests us to take a teaching from nature.

  1. As the Earth undergoes changes, in winter, everything freezes, becomes lifeless but after some time, the season changes again, and everything comes back to life.
  2. Similarly, taking a pause and introspecting into our lives will give it a new meaning. We will be able to understand the purpose of our life. It will be like a re birth of the soul.
  3. The poet has conveyed to all the people the purpose of his message and so, he asks them once again to take a pause, count till twelve and walks out of the scene, keeping the scene open for all the people on the Earth to experience this for times to come.

 

So, now the poet suggests to the human beings that we should learn a lesson from Earth. During the winters everything freezes and becomes lifeless. But when season changes and its the onset of spring season, everything present in the nature such as the trees, birds, rivers, etc gets life. So here, the poet, by giving the example of nature, wants to say that all the human beings should stop and try to judge their deeds. They can try and make their life better with calmness, peace. Finally, he ends up by saying that now he will count upto twelve so that we all may become quiet. Here ‘quiet’ means to calm down ourselves and move towards the path of peace and harmony. After saying this he says ‘I will go’. He says so as he has conveyed his message to the people and wants them to be left alone to think about it and work in the direction of peace.

 

Keeping Quiet Question Answers

Question and Answers

Q1- What will counting upto twelve and keeping still help us achieve?

A1-If we count upto twelve and keep still, it will give us some time to analyze our deeds. It will allow us some moments to think about the result of our activities. People in the world are involved in wars and are also damaging the environment in order to achieve their aims. Unfortunately this is taking all of us toward our own end. So, we need to think in order to achieve peace and harmony.

 

Q2- Do you think the poet advocates total inactivity and death?

A2- No, the poet doesn’t advocate total inactivity and death. He clarifies this in his poem that he wants all the people to just stop for a while in order to analyze their activities and their consequences. He wants human beings not to support war and damage to the environment.

 

Q3- What is the ‘sadness’ that the poet refers to in the poem?

A3- The sadness is the result of our own actions and deeds. According to the poet we all are in a hurry of achieving various tasks in our life. This rush sometimes proves dangerous for us. As we don’t analyze our actions, so we land ourselves in a number of problems. These problems then become the reason for our sadness as referred to in the poem.

 

Q4- What symbol from Nature does the poet invoke to say that there can be life under apparent stillness?

A4- The poet takes the example of earth to prove that there can be life under apparent stillness. The earth never gets inactive. We experience the change in the seasons which brings so many different things with it. In winters, things come to a standstill as the water bodies freeze; the trees shed their leaves, etc. But as soon as the spring season comes, it brings with it the lovely flowers, flowing rivers and a new life is given to the nature. So, the poet wants to convey that we should stay calm but that doesn’t mean that it will bring total inactivity and stillness.


 

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