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The Stone Chat by Taufiq Rafat Summary and Analysis

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Text of The Poem

Introduction:

This poem, “The Stone-Chat” was written by famous Pakistani poet Taufiq Rafat. Rafat is considered the founder of Pakistani poetry in English due to his representation of Pakistani culture through the English language. His poetry is characterized by the use of cultural imagery, nature, and the use of binary. In his poem “The Stone-Chat,” all these characteristics are prominent.


Summary and Analysis of the Poem:

The poem starts with the poet declaring that beauty does not need any ornamentation of words to be considered beautiful “The beautiful is beautiful anyway, so why embellish it with words”. These first two lines set the entire mood of the poem. The poet makes use of contrasting images to define what is beautiful. Similarly, the use of the article “the” is significant as it may refer to any muse the poet considers beautiful. The poem then shifts its focus and presents the first contrasting imageries i.e. “green and fruitful movements” and “parched for a desert”. These two binary imageries are important as they highlight two basic phenomena: spring which is related to life and youth, and desert, which is related to clarifying and maturity. The poet highlights how the eye is accustomed to seeing the good and lively things, the immature things that now it is at the mercy of the desert i.e. it longs for maturity. The poet then presents the image of “Jhelum’s eroded hills,” where the poet stopped once to alleviate or “relieve” himself. The poet then draws an analogy between these eroded hills of Jhelum and “a village crone” (an old ugly village woman). These hills, according to the poet, seem bedridden and hold no significant value, but they seem to possess a special feature. These hills, just like an old village woman, spit out an “occasional proverb”. They possess a sense of maturity and experience. The poet continues and says that to understand this maturity, one must first know himself “I must try and know myself, as I must once have been, and become”. The poet, to further explain his argument, presents the image of a “stone-chat,” a bird that is vibrating its tail with excitement amid the colorless background. This bird, according to the poet, has discovered its self-worth despite the scarcity of wheat. This bird, even living under harsh circumstances, is singing a song and calling this place home. It has learned the art of distinguishing between these shades of grey, which at first seemed colorless. This bird, according to the poet, has adapted to its surroundings while preserving its identity amid hardships. The poet then presents completely opposite imagery of “neighborhood is a riot of color, ad a ragged patch of wheat sufficient, cause to be mellifluous about”. The use of these imageries at the end is significant as the poet highlights the basic theme, which is the adaption to one’s surroundings. This adaption, according to the poet, will eventually lead to satisfaction and sufficiency.

 

Themes of the Poem:

Adaption to the surrounding: The main theme of the poem is an adaption to the surrounding. The poet uses the stonechat to explain this phenomenon of adaption to the surrounding. The poet highlights how the stonechat, who at first was “lost against the no-color background,” learned to “distinguish between the various shades of grey” till the “neighborhood is a riot of color”. This adaption of the bird leads the whole place to be mellifluous. The bird, despite the adversities and scarcity of wheat, sang and danced, vibrating its tail as it was eager to survive. This survival in the adverse circumstances was eventually overcome by the bird through adaption, which resulted in “wheat sufficient”. Rafat teaches adaption to the surroundings and survival even in the worst circumstances, as these circumstances will eventually be over and replaced by good ones.


Maturity vs. Ignorance:

Another important theme of this poem is the movement from ignorance to maturity. This theme is presented by the poet in several places by drawing different binary imageries. For instance, the poet highlights this movement from ignorance to maturity by pointing out the thirst for dessert rather than greenery. According to the poet, this thirst for desert or maturity can only be understood if one understands himself. Similarly, even in the first two lines, the poet highlights that beauty is beauty, even if it is not ornamented through words. Maturity, according to the poet, is the realization and acceptance of a beautiful thing as beautiful.


Self-recognition and self-reliance:

Self-recognition and self-reliance are also presented by the poet to be major concerns in the poem. The poet highlights that before knowing the manifestations of maturity one must know himself and his value. To explain his philosophy of knowing one’s self he gives the example of a stonechat. The stonechat, despite the adversities, wagged its tail and danced about, relying on itself, which leads the bird to find its home, food, and basic satisfaction. In conclusion, one may say that the poet Taufiq Rafat in this poem through different binary imageries, analogies, and the stone-chat teaches the lesson of maturity by adapting to one’s surroundings and accepting one’s self.


The poem is interpreted by  Syeda AreebaFatima, one of the permanent contributors to the SOL Community.

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