Critical Appreciation of the Poem Small-Scale Reflections on A Great House

Critical Appreciation of the Poem:


The poem entitled Small - Scale Reflections on A Great House may appear on the superficial level as a poem about an ancestral house. Nevertheless, it signifies, considerably, the Great Indian Culture. The house is said to possess an incorrigible property of letting anything into its confine without allowing it to go back. The Indian culture has forever accommodated whatever had arrived at its threshold. It has incorporated all foreign elements into its internal structure to form a homogenous whole. This poem contains a lot of exaggeration of the actual facts. The poet has recorded his thoughts and his meditations, cited several incidents which had taken place in the history of the family inhabiting this house.

Critical Appreciation of the Poem Small-Scale Reflections on A Great House
Critical Appreciation of the Poem Small-Scale Reflections on A Great House


Thought - Content: 

The poet mentions that some things that entered the house never went out. They lost themselves amongst other things that had similarly a history of being lost. Cows that entered were provided with shelter and gifted with a name. Their mating with bulls was carefully shielded from the young girls of the house. Nevertheless these girls managed to witness the sight of sex - making through the holes in the window. Library books once borrowed from the libraries never found their way back. They remained only to serve as breeding homes for insects and worms Eke silver - fish that multiplied in the office - room of the head of the family. Dishes that belonged to the neighbours were never returned. Servants once employed never left the house. Gramophones continued to remain there. On a distressing note, the poet mentions that diseases like epilepsy that once entered the blood continued to haunt the generations to come. Sons - in - laws who came to see their mothers - in - law or fathers - in - law never left the house. They were asked to check domestic accounts by the mothers - in - law or office accounts by the fathers - in - law. They were also asked to stay on to teach arithmetic to the nieces of the family, Women who came as wives of some male members never left the house. They were left to witness monsoons beating against the banana trees. The poet then goes on to say that some things that went out of the house did find their way back. Bales of cotton were carried out to Manchester in the U.K., these bales returned processed as packets of cloth with heavy bills attached to them. Letters posted by members of the family found their way back as they were redirected by the post offices that failed to locate the precise address. Ideas that originated in the house conveyed to outsiders, returned to the house as gossip. Some things that went out of this house could never stay out for a longer period of time. They returned back right on time these included daughters that were married to idiots and were therefore found to be incompatible to live with. Sons of the house who had run away returned in the shape of their sons, because their wives had given birth to boys . A nephew once ran away returned as a corpse. 

Failure of Hinduism: 

In the poem; he also admires, or at least takes due note of, the great absorbing power of Hinduism in his poem . He gives us an elaborate account of life of a typical Hindu joint family. At the same time he does not ignore the inability of the orthodox Hindu religion to satisfy completely the modern mind. For instance, Hinduism fails to observe the elemental evil in human life. In one of his poems, he clearly brings out the failure of a Hindu to remain calm at all events though in theory and as a matter of belief he does remain calm because of his regular reading of the Gita. 

Little or No Nostalgia in the Poem: 

The poem has a large component of reminiscences in it. This poem is a mixture of the present and the past experiences; but there is little in it that can be called nostalgic. Here Ramanujan recalls the happenings in his ancestral house in a somewhat detached manner, without expressing any particular emotion about those happenings. There can be nothing nostalgic or wistful about a beggar coming with a violin and singing a prostitute song in a harsh voice; and there can be nothing nostalgic or wistful about the daughters of the house getting married to short lived idiots. 

Element of Pathos: 

The poem takes a pathetic turn. The poem narrates how epilepsy which rain in the family and passed on from generation to generation. On a poignant note, the poet ends the poem by mentioning that a nephew of this house once ran away and joined army. He participated in many battles on the borders. He had won laurels on the battle - field. He made occasional visits to this house, but finally returned to the great house in the form of corpse brought in aeroplane, train or military truck. Such a return was tragic, but it took place on a perfectly good chatty afternoon which heightened by contrast the grim tragedy referred to in military dispatches as merely an incident on the border. 

“and lately from somewhere 
in the north , a nephew with stripes 
on his shoulder was called 
an incident on the border 
and was brought back in plane 
and train and military truck 
even before the telegrams reached, 
on a perfectly good 
chatty afternoon. "

All - Pervasive Irony in the Poem:

 In the poem, there is irony in the very opening lines:

 “Sometimes I think that nothing 
that ever comes into this house 
goes out.” 

The speaker, who is Ramanujan himself, then goes on to say, in an ironic tone:

“…….Things come in everyday
 to lose themselves among other things 
lost long ago among 
other things lost long ago. "

Then the examples to illustrate this view have also been given in the same ironical manner. For instance, lame wandering cows coming to this house from nowhere have been known to be tethered , given a name , encouraged to get pregnant in the broad daylight of the street under the elders ' supervision , while the girls hide behind windows with holes in them . 

“Lame wandering cows from nowhere 
have been known to be tethered,
 given a name , encouraged 
to get pregnant in the broad daylight 
of the street under the elders ' 
supervision , the girls hiding 
behind windows with holes in them. "

Noteworthy in this connection is also the example of a beggar who once came with a violin to sing , in his jarring and harsh voice , ' a prostitute song ' which then the family cook picked up for his ' voiceless ' singing . 

“A beggar once came with a violin 
to coak out a prostitute song 
that our voiceless cook sang 
all the time in our backyard. " 

There is a marked irony in the speaker's remark that the daughters of this family get married to short - lived idiots, and that the sons who ran away from home come back to it in the grand - children who recite Sanskrit to approving old men. 

Style and Language: 

The poem is remarkable for its condensation of the subject matter. Every six lines or so containing an event to illustrate the idea can be extended by us into a full page of ordinary prose writing. Of course even this poem reads like prose because of its complete absence of thyme and because not much of rhythm is felt by us in it . The poetic quality is found mainly in the subject - matter, in the remarkable condensation of the material and in the presentation of the material through choice words and an ingenious combination of words into phrases: clauses and sentences. The incidental details, inserted into the poem, here and there , enhance the interest of the poem as a whole , and also enhance its poetic quality . It is said the poem reads like prose. But it is prose packed with suggestions, and packed with them to the breaking - point or the bursting - point. How suggestive, for instance, are the lines in which the poet says: 

“...…. cloth for our days’ 
middle - class loins , and muslin 
for our richer nights. " 

Suggestive also are the lines in which we are told that ideas behave like rumours once casually mentioned somewhere. Here we can ourselves imagine what those rumours might be. Then what ingenuity is to be found in the sentence that the ideas come back to the door ' as prodigies born to prodigal fathers’! Then, again the lines which follow are highly suggestive. What uncle said the other day and so on, may be interpreted by us in any way we like. Similarly a prostitute song sung by a beggar in his jarring voice may be imagined by us to be anything we like. 

The poet deftly creates the past in the present. The use of the present tense bears witness to the presence of the past in his poetry. He communicates to the readers what he sees in mind's eye. The repetition of the phrase “lost long ago” dramatically recreates the past in the present. The poet skilfully plays on words, which are used as in integral part of the context.