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Notes by Muhammad Azam, Lecturer, Shaheen Academy, G-6-1/3, Islamabad. Cell 03335418018

Notes by Muhammad Azam, Lecturer, Shaheen Academy, G-6-1/3, Islamabad. Cell 03335418018

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O where are you going? O where are you going? Document Transcript

  • O WHERE ARE YOU GOING? "O where are you going?" said reader to rider, "That valley is fatal when furnaces burn, Yonders the midden whose odours will madden, That gap is the grave where the tall return."Reference: These verses have been taken from the W. H. Auden’s poem “OWhere Are You Going?Context: This poem is a dialogue between two imaginary persons, personified asReader and Rider. The Reader, whose life is based on theoretical concepts andnothing practical, is a timid and terrified person. On the other hand, the Rider is abrave, courageous and practical man. Although his journey is replete withinnumerable dangers, yet he is determined to accomplish it through thick and thinor whatever sufferings and sorrows come in his way. Through the dialogue betweentwo opposite force i.e the Reader and Rider the poet has tried to preach thephilosophy of life that man is not made for defeat and one must bedetermined and confident to achieve the goals of life without losingcourage and hope. The Reader in this poem is the representative of all thosecowards, who die ten times before death. The valley is the symbol ofhardships and mysteries of life.Explanation: In these verses, the Reader, who is coward, full of awe andastonishment, discourages the Rider from continuing his tough task of travelling. Hesays that the valley where the Rider is going is replete with heaps of dung /wastematerial, whose nasty smell may sicken him or madden his mind. To strike furtherhorror in the heart and mind of the Rider, the Rider adds that there is also a grave inthe form of a gap for those, who try to cross it. At the very outset, the Reader tries to frighten and discourage the readerfrom accomplishing his journey. The reader is impractical, unrealistic and far morefrightened, so he can’t overcome obstacle of life as Shakespeare has remarked: Extreme fear can neither flight nor fly "O do you imagine," said fearer to farer, "That dusk will delay on your path to the pass, Your diligent looking discover the lacking Your footsteps feel from granite to grass?"Explanation:- In the above mentioned verses, the Reader warns the Riderregarding the risks and tragedies, which may befall during his journey. He says thatalthough the Rider is undertaking his journey during the day time, yet at dusk it willbecome dark and deadly, where his intelligence and vigilance will display hisignorance regarding mysteries of life. The Reader also warns him that the footstepson granite are different from those on grass. In other words, he means to say thatthe path that the Rider has chosen is tortuous and twisted. The fearer tries to discourage the rider so that he may withdraw from hisambition to cross and conquer the valley replete with dangers, failures, sorrows andsufferings. It’s true that bad time never plays trumpet, however, one must beready to face it courageously. In spite of the Reader’s predictions anddiscouragement, the Rider is not ready to give for him. To him, the will powermatters not the path /journey, which is either tough or straightforward and a
  • determined person never complains about such things, as it is well said by TomWilson:- You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.No doubt God created us, but He gave us the power ofchoice to shape our own lives and fortunes. It is dependsupon a person, how he reacts during happy moments or in toughtimes. "O what was that bird," said horror to hearer, "Did you see that shape in the twisted trees? Behind you swiftly the figure comes softly, The spot on your skin is a shocking disease."Explanation: - In the above mentioned verses, the Horror/Reader terrifies theHearer /Rider regarding mysterious event or phenomenon, which may befall duringhis journey. Supernatural creatures, having terrible faces, may appear in his way.The trees, in that valley, are the dwelling place for such ghostly creatures, which maychase him to death. The Horror points out that the tiny spot on his face and bodyare the symptoms of deadly disease. From the very outset, the main objective of the Reader is to frighten theRider, who is determined to cross the land of terror and dismay. The Rider believesin deeds not the baseless words, because deeds are fruits; words are butleaves. Shakespeare has rightly remarked about will power that our bodies aregardens to which our wills are gardeners. "Out of this house," said rider to reader, "Yours never will," said farer to fearer, "Theyre looking for you," said hearer to horror, As he left them there, as he left them there.Explanation: - The concluding stanza of the poem indicates that the Rider doesn’tget frightened of the Readers pseudo warnings. He bears the iron will power to crossthe valley. The traveller says to the reader that the brave and courageous people arenot afraid of the hardships of life and always struggle till death. They trust in theircapabilities and live on the principal of “Do or Die”. Regarding will power and self-reliance, Emerson has rightly quoted: Trust thyself; every heart vibrates to that iron string!Such people never wait for opportunities or the dangers to be over, becausedeciding today is less risky than waiting till all the risks are removedand when there is a will there is a way.The Rider further remarks that Reader’s world is limited and can’t come over thebarrier of the shortcoming of his own character. Ironically, the doubts and fears thatthe Reader has been trying to create in the mind and heart of the Rider, are waitingfor him; he will definitely become prey of his fears and doubts. Saying this, the Riderleft the Reader and assumed his journey. ΜΥΗΑΜΜΑ∆ ΑΖΑΜ,ΣΗΑΗΕΕΝ ΑΧΑ∆ΕΜΨ, Γ−6−1/3, Ισλαµαβαδ− Πη− 03335418018