The Laburnum Top Class 11 English Poem 2 Summary, Literary Devices, Explanation, Question Answer

By Vaishnavi Tyagi

CBSE Class 11 English Hornbill Book Poem 2 The Laburnum Top Summary, Literary Devices, Explanation with Video and Question Answers

The Laburnum Top – CBSE Class 11 English Hornbill Book Poem 2 The Laburnum Top Summary and Detailed explanation of the Poem along with meanings of difficult words.
Also, the explanation is followed by a Summary of the poem and literary devices used. All the exercises and Question and Answers given at the back of the lesson have been covered. Also, Take Free Online MCQs Test for Class 11

Class 11 English (Hornbill Book) Poem 2 The Laburnum Top

By Ted Hughes

the laburnum top

The Laburnum Top Introduction

The poem ‘The Laburnum Top’ is written by Ted Hughes. It is about a repaying relationship between the Laburnum tree and the Goldfinch bird. The tree is yellow, silent and death-like and is made alive by the bird and her young ones. The yellow bird has her shelter on the tree where she feeds her young ones. But as soon as the bird leaves to fly in the sky, the tree becomes silent and death-like again.


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The Laburnum Top Class 11 Video Explanation


The Laburnum Top Summary

The poem starts with a description of the Laburnum tree whose top was still and silent. Its leaves had turned yellow and seeds had fallen down. It was a daytime in the month of September when the tree was standing still and death-like.

The life-less tree becomes alive by the arrival of the Goldfinch bird. She came to feed her younger ones who are on the thickness of the branch. The tree is her shelter. She arrives at the end of the branch with a chirping sound. She further moves to the other side of the branch with rapid and precautionary movement like a lizard. As soon as she arrives, her younger ones start chirping like a machine and vibrating and flapping their wings. The death-like tree becomes alive and it trembles and shakes.

After feeding them, she flies to the other side of the branch. Her dark coloured face with the yellow body was barely visible as she vanished behind the yellow leaves. She flew away in the sky, leaving the tree death-like again.


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The Laburnum Top Summary in Hindi

कविता अमलतास (लैबर्नम) के पेड़ के वर्णन के साथ शुरू होती है जिसका शीर्ष अभी स्थिर और शांत था। उसके पत्ते पीले पड़ गए थे और बीज गिर गए थे। सितंबर के महीने में एक दिन था जब पेड़ स्थिर और मृत की तरह खड़ा था।

गोल्डफिंच पक्षी के आने से निर्जीव वृक्ष जीवित हो जाता है। वह अपने छोटे बच्चों को खिलाने आई थी जो शाखा की मोटाई पर एक घोंसले में हैं। वृक्ष उसका आश्रय है। वह चहकती आवाज के साथ शाखा के अंत में पहुंचती है। वह आगे छिपकली की तरह तेज और एहतियाती गति के साथ शाखा के दूसरी तरफ चली जाती है। जैसे ही वह आती है, उसके छोटे बच्चे मशीन की तरह चहकने लगते हैं और कंपन करते हैं और अपने पंख फड़फड़ाते हैं। मृत्यु के समान वृक्ष जीवित हो जाता है और कांपता और हिलता है।

उन्हें खिलाने के बाद, वह शाखा के दूसरी तरफ उड़ जाती है। पीले शरीर के साथ उसका गहरा रंग का चेहरा मुश्किल से दिखाई दे रहा था क्योंकि वह अमलतास वृक्ष की पीली पत्तियों के रंग में मिल गया था । वह एक बार फिर से मृत्यु के समान वृक्ष को छोड़कर आकाश में उड़ गई।


The Laburnum Top Poem Explanation


Poem Stanza 1

The Laburnum top is silent, quite still
In the afternoon yellow September sunlight,
A few leaves yellowing, all its seeds fallen.

Word Meaning
Laburnum – a short tree with hanging branches, yellow flowers, and poisonous seeds

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Explanation of the Poem: In the above lines, the poet says that he saw a Laburnum tree whose leaves were yellow. The tree’s top is still and silent in the day time of September month. It is autumn season and all the seeds of the tree had fallen.

The poet has used the word ‘yellow’ for leaves and sunlight. Yellow symbolizes silence, death, and beauty. He describes the whole scene of the tree with this colour.

Poem Stanza 2

Till the goldfinch comes, with a twitching chirrup
A suddenness, a startlement, at a branch end.
Then sleek as a lizard, and alert, and abrupt,
She enters the thickness, and a machine starts up
Of chitterlings, and a tremor of wings, and trillings —
The whole tree trembles and thrills.

Word Meaning
– a small singing birds with yellow feathers on its wings
Twitching – sudden jerk movement
Chirrup – a bird making repeated high pitched sounds
Startlement – feeling or showing sudden shock
Abrupt – rapid
Chitterings – to make a chattering sound
Tremor of wings – involuntary vibration of the wings
Trillings – to produce a chirruping sound
Trembles – to shake
Thrills – a sudden feeling of excitement

Explanation of the Poem: A Goldfinch bird comes to end the death-like scene of the tree and makes a sudden chirrup sound. The bird while being rapid, alert and precautions like a lizard, sits on the branches of the tree. As she moved towards the thickness of the branch, her younger ones started chirruping and doing vibrations with wings, making a sound like a machine. Because of the movement of the bird and her young ones, the tree starts to shake and thrill.

The poet has given two opposite scenarios of the tree. The tree first being death-like and still and then giving life and shelter to bird and her young ones.

Poem Stanza 3

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It is the engine of her family.
She stokes it full, then flirts out to a branch-end
Showing her barred face identity mask

Word Meaning
Flirts out
– lead on to
Stokes – to add fuel to the engine
Barred – stripy

Explanation of the Poem: The Laburnum tree and the goldfinch bird is the engine of her family. She provides food to her young ones and moves to the other branch end. Her dark coloured striped face is visible as her body is yellow coloured and hides behind the yellow leaves of the tree.

Poem Stanza 4

Then with eerie delicate whistle-chirrup whisperings
She launches away, towards the infinite
And the laburnum subsides to empty.

Word Meaning
– weird and strange
Whistle-chirrup – gentle whisper like the chirping of the bird
Subsides – diminishes

Explanation of the Poem: After reaching the end of the branch, the bird makes a sweet chirping sound just like whispering and flies away towards the infinite sky. It again makes the Laburnum tree silent and death-like.

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The Laburnum Top Literary Devices

1. Alliteration – repetition of a consonant sound at the beginning of two or more consecutive words. The instances of alliteration in the poem are as follows-

September sunlight

tree trembles

2. Simile – comparison between two things using like or as.

Sleek as a lizard

3. Metaphor – an indirect comparison between two things. Generally, a quality is compared.

“She enters the thickness, and a machine starts up” – the noise created by the movement of the birds is compared to the machine’s noise
“It is the engine of her family.”
“Showing her barred face identity mask”

4. Personification – the attribution of personal nature characteristics to something non-human

The whole tree trembles and thrills.

5. Transferred Epithet – the figure of speech where the adverb is transferred to another noun

her barred face identity mask


The Laburnum Top Question and Answers

Find out

1. What laburnum is called in your language?

Ans: In the Hindi language, the laburnum tree is called ‘Amaltaas’.

2. Which local bird is like the goldfinch?

Ans: Indian Lutino Ringneck is like the goldfinch.

Think it out

1. What do you notice about the beginning and the ending of the poem?

Ans: At the beginning and the ending of the poem, the laburnum tree was standing still and silent just like death-like.

2. To what is the bird’s movement compared? What is the basis for the comparison?

Ans: The goldfinch’s movement is compared to that of the lizard because she was abrupt, sleek and alert. The same movements were observed when she arrived at the tree and moved to the thickness side of the branch to feed her young ones.

3. Why is the image of the engine evoked by the poet?

Ans: As the engine is the source to run the machine. The bird is compared to the engine as she is the feeder of her family. As a machine cannot work without an engine, her family can’t last without her.

4. What do you like most about the poem?

Ans: I liked the comparison of the state of the tree before and after the goldfinch bird arrives and it makes the death-like tree alive.

5. What does the phrase “her barred face identity mask” mean?

Ans: The phrase “her barred face identity mask” means that the bird’s face became her identity and symbol of recognition.

Note down
1. the sound words
2. the movement words
3. the dominant colour in the poem.


  1. Twitching, chirrup, chitterings, trillings, whispering
  2. Comes, enters, starts up, flirts out, launches away, tremble, subside
  3. Yellow

List the following

1. Words which describe ‘sleek’, ‘alert’ and ‘abrupt’.

2. Words with the sound ‘ch’ as in ‘chart’ and ‘tr’ as in ‘trembles’ in
the poem.

3. Other sounds that occur frequently in the poem.


  1. Lizard, machine, and suddenness
  2. Goldfinch, branch, chitterings, chirrup, trillings, twitching, tremors
  3. ‘ing’ sound in words like twitching, chitterings, wings, trillings, whisperings


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