The Patriot – Important Questions

The Patriot’ is one of the best-known poems by the 19th century English poet Robert Browning. It is one of those pieces for which Browning adopted a new poetic device called ‘dramatic monologue’. As such, the poem revolves around the narrator who is talking to himself in a ‘dramatic’ way.

Important Question and Answers

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

It was roses, roses, all the way,
With myrtle mixed in my path like mad:
The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway,
The church-spires flamed, such flags they had,
A year ago on this very day.

1. What does the speaker talk about in these lines? What does the third line suggest here? Describe the dominant mood of this stanza.

Ans. The speaker talks about the rousing welcome he had been accorded by people earlier. It suggests a huge presence of the crowd that had assembled on the house-tops. This gave the impression as though they were moving and swinging. The dominant mood of this stanza is that of festive joy and cheerfulness.

2. What does the phrase ‘the church-spires flamed’ imply? When did the event, being recalled here, take place?

Ans. It implies that the minarets and domes of churches seemed to aflame due to the massive presence of colourful flags put all over them for decorative purpose. This event took place one year ago.

3. ‘The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway’. Explain.

Ans. In this line, the narrator of the poem remembers the grand welcome he was accorded as a hero by people one year ago. This particular line suggests the presence of a huge crowd that had gathered to see and greet him on his arrival. Picturising this, the narrator states that there was so much of excitement and joy in the air that the roofs of houses crowded with people did not appear to be still.

4. How was he welcomed?

Ans. The first stanza gives a lively description of how, just one year ago, the narrator was welcomed with pomp and ceremony by people from his town. As the narrator says, his path was laden with roses and myrtle, signifying love and honour for him as their hero. The residents of the town have clambered onto their roofs to get a glimpse of the patriot, while the flags of different colours were so high and imposing that the church spires seemed to be surrounded by flames.

5. What significance does the line” A year ago on this very day” presents in the context of the poem?

Ans. This line is extremely significant as it anticipates the stark irony of the narrator’s life, exposing him to paradoxical situations. Besides, it indicates that the narrator was regarded as a hero by his people in the recent past. This makes the readers curious as to how he is treated by his people ‘now’ or ‘today’. Thus, this line reinforces shift in the speaker’s description of what happened in the ‘past’ to what is happening at ‘present’ quite intelligibly.

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

The air broke into a mist with bells,
The old walls rocked with the crowd and cries.
Had I said, “Good folk, mere noise repels —
But give me your sun from yonder skies!”
They had answered, “And afterward, what else?”

1. What do the first two lines of the stanza suggest? Why did the air break into a mist?

Ans. They suggest the celebratory mood of people according a warm welcome to their hero. They ring bells and raise slogans, and all these mingle with one another to shake the walls that are old. The air broke into a mist because of the noisy slogans and the ringing bells.

2. What do the last three lines suggest about the mood of the crowd?

Ans. These people were welcoming him so happily that if he had told them that mere noise and slogans did not please him. And that they should give him the sun, that is there in the sky far away from them, they would have replied, that was executed (done and what else they could do for him ‘the leader’).

3. Who were they in the following line? What light does the line throw on them? They had answered, “And afterward, what else?”

Ans. The personal pronoun ‘They’ has been used here for the crowd of people who welcomed the narrator. When the patriot asks them to fetch him their sun from the skies, their answer is reflective of their frivolous nature. They immediately ask the patriot what else would he require, other than the sun. This indicates that though the crowd was eager, they weren’t sensible.

4. Explain the line: “But give me your sun from yonder skies!”

Ans. This is what the speaker as the patriot tells the crowd surrounding him. He tries to tell them that he doesn’t want all the cheers and applause, but wants them to fetch something immortal and imperishable for him. This implies that he wants to live in their memories as a great hero for ever.

5. Which particular trend in the modern-day politics does the behaviour of the crowd suggest here?

Ans. The behaviour of the crowd here suggests the trend of hero worship that is so prevalent in contemporary politics. As we notice, the crowd is too excited for a glimpse of the patriot. They treat the patriot as a superman for whom they will not hesitate to sacrifice themselves. This amounts to overglorification or even deification of a leader, paving the way for the emergence of what is sometimes referred to as the personality cult in politics.

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

Alack, it was I who leaped at the sun
To give it my loving friends to keep!
Nought man could do, have I left undone:
And you see my harvest, what I reap
This very day, now a year is run.

1. Who is ‘I’ in the above extract? What does leaping at the sun signify?

Ans. In these lines, the personal pronoun ‘I’ has been used by the poet for the patriot-hero, i.e. the speaker in this poem. The phrase ‘leaping at the sun’ here implies that the patriot has done extraordinary things for the happiness and welfare of people who love him. He feels that people should reciprocate this by immortalising him as their hero.

2. In what mood is the speaker now? Where is he at present?

Ans. Presently, the speaker seems to have realised that he has absolutely no control over the situation he finds himself in. He is gloomy, melancholy, dejected and hapless as he knows that his life is going to end soon. At present, he is being taken away to the execution ground where he will be hanged.

3. What does the first line tell about the speaker’s sentiment? Who does the speaker refer to as ‘my loving friends’? How does the speaker justify himself as a people’s leader?

Ans. Here, the speaker says with an aggrieved heart that it was he who made the impossible, possible for people. The speaker calls his countrymen as ‘my loving friends’. He says that as a leader he did everything to keep people happy and left nothing undone for them.

4. Explain what “harvest” the speaker is referring to?

Ans. In this stanza, the speaker uses the word “harvest” satirically. His “harvest” is what he has reaped, whereas what he had sown was bringing glory, power and honour to the people. He feels that for all the outstanding things he did for his people, he has got a reward that is extremely disgracing. As he is going to die at the gallows, he has realised that his own people who once worshipped him have misunderstood him and are responsible for his tragic end.

5. Explain what the speaker wants to say in the last two lines.

Ans. He says with great sorrow that today when only one year has lapsed and that he is no more in chair, his reward can be seen. It can also be seen what he is reaping as a reward of his deeds. Everything has changed for him in a year. In a sorrowful tone the speaker says that the people have forgotten all what he has done for them.

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

There’s nobody on the house-tops now —
Just a palsied few at the windows set;
For the best of the sight is, all allow,
At the Shambles’ Gate—or, better yet,
By the very scaffold’s foot, I trow.

1. Compare the scene on the house-tops a year ago and now as mentioned in the extract above.

Ans. Here, the speaker notices a stark reversal of the situation that he had experienced one year ago. Today, the house-tops are completely empty and save a very few people, who are handicapped, he sees nobody anywhere. This is so unlike what he had seen exactly one year ago, when the roof-tops were filled with a huge crowd standing there to welcome him as a hero.

2. What difference is seen in the people’s attitude towards the patriot before and now?

Ans. One year ago, he was a hero loved, adored and honoured by his people. At that time, people’s attitude mirrored the prime of his popularity. Today, the same people hate him and he finds himself disgraced, discarded and deprived of honour and pride. The way people treat him now reflects the lowest ebb of his career from which death alone will bring in the ultimate liberation and relief.

3. Explain: “the best of sight”? What does it refer to and why?

Ans. The phrase “the best of sight” refers to the sight of the speaker passing through the Shambles’ Gate and reaching the gallows. By using it ironically, the speaker indirectly suggests that his people lack sensibility and judiciousness, due to which they behave like a one-dimensional herd with a crude tendency to accept or reject anything without using their ability to reason and think. That is why, when people adored him as their hero, he could notice their presence everywhere. Now, as he has lost their trust and faith, they all want to see him dying. To them therefore, “the best of sight” is to be offered by the way he approaches his death.

4. What does the phrase ‘a palsied few at the windows set’ imply here?

Ans. The phrase has been used to inform about the only set of people who are visible now. As the speaker says, they are rather paralyzed and are standing at the windows. At a deeper level, however, they may suggest those few people who might know that he is not guilty. But they are themselves too weak to protect him from capital punishment.

5. What does the speaker mourn in the first line? Why does the spectacle presented seem to be so horrible? Which images used in this stanza are connected to death?

Ans. The speaker is sad to see that nobody can be seen on the housetops to welcome him now. The sight is horrible because the leader is now being taken to the slaughter-house, or it can be better said, the leader thinks, that he is being taken to the gallows to be hanged there. Shamble’s Gate and scaffold’s foot are two such images that are connected to death.

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

I go in the rain, and, more than needs,
A rope cuts both my wrists behind;
And I think, by the feel, my forehead bleeds,
For they fling, whoever has a mind,
Stones at me for my year’s misdeeds.

1. What is the general impression you get here about the condition of the speaker? What does the second line suggest here?

Ans. These lines indicate that speaker is in a pathetic and disgraceful condition, in which no living creature would ever wish to be. The second line says that the speaker’s hands are tied behind his back with a rope. This suggests that he is being taken away as a prisoner.

2. For whom is the pronoun ‘they’ used in the fourth line? What kind of treatment does the speaker receive from people?

Ans. It is used for the general public watching the leader as a culprit. Everybody feels that he has done nothing for his countrymen. Every person has turned against him and the achievements of his past one year have been changed to misdeeds. The people present a harsh behavior towards the speaker.

3. Whose forehead bleeds? How? How was he treated earlier?

Ans. As the speaker passes by with his hands tied onto his back, people hurl stones at him. Due to this, his forehead bleeds. The description of this act shows the extent to which people hate him now. They treat him as a petty criminal and vent their anger against him for what they regard as a monumental betrayal.

4. The speaker uses the phrase “my year’s misdeeds”. How does this phrase add to the ambiguity in the poem?

Ans. In this stanza, as it clearly appears, the speaker has used this phrase to mean something that remains mysterious and unknown till the end. As he states, people who loved and respected him so much have suddenly started hating him for all he has done during a period of just one year! This period seems to be too short for such a complete change in people’s attitude unless the person, whom they have acknowledged as their icon, does something that completely shatters their trust in him. As the poet does not throw any light on this aspect, we are unable to precisely know anything about it. That is why the phrase “my year’s misdeeds” adds to the ambiguity in the poem.

5. Describe the image of the stanza.

Ans. The image is extremely sorrowful and pathetic. It is raining and the speaker is being taken to the scaffold i.e., towards his punishment of death. He is bleeding due to the wounds caused by the people who threw stones at him. All his services, his good deeds have been forgotten by everyone. He is in great humiliation and is treated as an animal. This is very emotional. It touches the hearts of the readers and makes to feel sorry for the ill-treatment, the speaker is receiving.

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

Thus I entered, and thus I go!
In triumphs, people have dropped down dead.
“Paid by the world, what dost thou owe “Me?”—
God might question; now instead,
‘Tis God shall repay: I am safer so.

1. What does the speaker says in the first and second line of the stanza?

Ans. Here, the poet, through the mouth of the deposed leader, says that he was brought honourably to the chair and with great pomp and show but now he is being taken very insultingly to the gallows. He says sometimes great heroes fall from their climax and die. Such has not happened to him. Had he died in the peak of his power, he would have been happy.

2. Explain: “In triumphs, people have dropped down dead.”

Ans. This line is an example of paradox. The word ‘triumphs’ means victories signifying brilliant feats achieved by people on the battlefield. Such feats lead to an elevation in the status of those who achieve them. However, this occasionally happens when they lose their lives during the course of the battles they fight. Thus, falling in death is inevitable even when it contradicts what it results in, i.e., elevation or ascendance that a ‘triumph’ basically signifies.

3. ‘I am safer so’. What irony is involved here?

Ans. The speaker says that he is forced to give away his life in humiliation for which the people are largely responsible. They do not realise this and so, all his good work and his ultimate sacrifice in keeping with what they desire will remain unrewarded. Thus, when he meets God after his death, he will be in a position to be rewarded by Him. This is unlike those persons who die in glory and honour that they receive as rewards from their people in this world only.

4. What does the speaker want to say in the concluding lines?

Ans. He says after death he will go to his Lord Creator where God Might question him about his deeds he had done for the people. He would reply that he had done his best for them but they rewarded him with shame. Now he will ask God for a reward because God is just and He would give him the best reward in the other world for his service to his people. He would be safe with God in the world here after.

5. How does the above extract reflect Browning’s optimistic philosophy of life?

Ans. The above extract reflects the poet Robert Browning’s belief in the supremacy of divine justice. Through the speaker, he wants to convey this by assuming that the world may be absolutely fair to a person who thinks he deserves a glorious treatment. However, that person should not lose hope because the ultimate reward for him always lies with the Almighty, the supreme giver of justice.

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