Get summary, workbook solutions, questions, answers, notes, pdf, and extras to the poem “Abou Ben Adhem” by James Henry Leigh Hunt, which is a part of Class 9 English syllabus for students studying under the Manipur Board (BSEM).
The poem opens by introducing us to the main character, Abou Ben Adhem, and expressing hope that his tribe and people will continue to prosper. One night, Abou Ben Adhem awoke from a very deep and peaceful sleep to find moonlight filling his room, making it seem rich and beautiful. In this moolit room, he saw an angel writing in a golden book. Feeling calm and peaceful, Abou Ben Adhem was emboldened to ask the angel what he was writing. The angel looked up with a gentle expression and replied that he was writing down the names of all those who love God.
Abou Ben Adhem then politely asked if his name was included among those who love God. The angel responded that Abou Ben Adhem’s name was not written there. Abou Ben Adhem was undeterred and, in a soft yet cheerful voice, made one more request of the angel – to write his name as one who loves his fellow men. The angel wrote something in his book, probably his name, and then disappeared.
The very next night, the angel returned. This time he came with a bright, radiant light, as if to rouse someone from sleep. The angel then showed Abou Ben Adhem the list of all those who were blessed by God’s love. Abou Ben Adhem saw, to his surprise and delight, that his name now led all the rest of the names on the list.
In summary, the poem conveys that Abou Ben Adhem, a man devoted to loving his fellow men, was considered even more blessed than those who only loved God. This suggests that true spirituality expresses itself in caring for others. Through the encounter between Abou Ben Adhem and the angel, the poem gently puts forth the message that loving humanity is the highest form of loving the divine. It emphasises selfless service and universal compassion over merely religious rituals.
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Abou Ben Adhem is the main character of the poem. The line in brackets is a wish for his tribe or people like him to prosper.
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
One night, Abou Ben Adhem awoke from a very deep, peaceful sleep.
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
When he awoke, he saw moonlight filling his room.
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
The moonlight made his room seem rich and beautiful, like a lily flower blossoming.
An angel writing in a book of gold –
In the moonlit room, he saw an angel writing in a golden book.
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold; / Abou Ben Adhem felt utterly peaceful and calm, which made him bold.
And to the Presence in the room he said
Seeing the angelic presence there, Abou spoke up boldly.
“What writest thou ?” – The vision raised its head,
He asked what the angel was writing. The angel looked up at him.
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
The angel gave him a gentle, peaceful look.
Answered “The names of those who love the Lord.”
The angel answered that he was writing down the names of people who love God.
“And is mine one?” Said Abou. “Nay not so”
Abou asked if his name was on the list. The angel said it was not.
Replied the angel. Abou Spoke more low.
Abou then spoke more softly.
But cheerly still, and said “I pray thee, then,
But he still spoke cheerfully and politely.
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”
He asked the angel to write his name as someone who loves his fellow human beings.
The angel wrote and vanished. The next night
The angel wrote something, probably his name, and disappeared. The following night,
It came again with a great wakening light
The angel returned with a bright, awakening light
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed.
And showed Abou the list of people blessed by God’s love.
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.
Abou saw that his name now led all the other names on the list.
(A) On the basis of your understanding of the poem answer the following questions by ticking the correct choice.
a. When the angel appeared in the room of Abou Ben Adhem
i. he was asleep.
ii. he was dreaming.
iii. he was awake.
iv. he was praising god in sweet and low voice.
Answer: iii. he was awake.
b. When the angel appeared.
i. Abou’s room was very dark.
ii. Abou had to put on light to see the angel.
iii. the angel was having a torch shaped like a lily.
iv. there was moonlight in the room.
Answer: iv. there was moonlight in the room.
c. What was the angel doing?
i. The angel was writing in a book made of gold.
ii. The angel was standing and looking at Abou Ben Adhem.
iii. The angel asked whether Abou loved god or fellow men.
iv. The angel was holding a white lily in bloom.
Answer: i. The angel was writing in a book made of gold.
d. How many times did the angel visit Abou?
iv. Many times.
Answer: ii. Twice.
(B) Answer the following questions briefly
i. Who or what looked like ‘a lily in bloom’ – the angel, Abou, or the book? Why does the poet mention ‘lily’?
Answer: The moonlight in Abou’s room made it look like a lily in bloom. The poet uses ‘lily’ to symbolize purity and peace.
ii. Which line suggests that Abou was a fearless man? Why was he fearless?
Answer: The line “Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold” suggests Abou was fearless. His fearlessness was due to the peace he felt.
iii. What did Abou want to know from the angel?
Answer: Abou wanted to know what the angel was writing in the book.
iv. What did the angel say to Abou?
Answer: The angel told Abou it was writing the names of those who love the Lord.
v. What request did Abou make?
Answer: Abou requested the angel to write his name as one who loves his fellow men.
vii. What did the angel show Abou the next night?
Answer: The angel showed Abou the list of names of those blessed with the love of God.
viii. Where was Abou’s name in the list shown by the angel to Abou?
Answer: Abou’s name led all the rest in the list.
Think and Answer
(A) Which of the following two sentences may be applied to the poem ?
a. Service to God is service to man.
b. Service to man is service to God.
Try to justify your answer in a few lines.
Answer: In “Abou Ben Adhem,” the sentence “Service to man is service to God” aligns more closely with the poem’s message. This is because Abou Ben Adhem, who is not listed among those who love God, is placed first in the list of those blessed with the love of God after expressing his love for fellow men. This illustrates the idea that showing love and compassion to others is equivalent to serving God, emphasizing the importance of human kindness and empathy in spiritual fulfillment.
(a) When two dissimilar things are compared in a poem such a comparison is called a simile. A simile can be easily recognised from the use of words ‘like’ or ‘as’ in the comparison. Now make a list of ‘similies’ in the poem in your group.
Answer: The poem “Abou Ben Adhem” by James Henry Leigh Hunt uses similes, a figure of speech where two unlike things are compared using ‘like’ or ‘as’. To find specific examples of similes from the poem, readers are encouraged to refer to the text and identify instances where this literary device is employed.
(b) Look at the word ‘a deep dream of peace’ in the second line. The poet is using the sound ‘d’ in two words nearby to each other. Such use of the same sounds in successive words or in words near to one another is called Alliteration.
Answer: The phrase “a deep dream of peace” from “Abou Ben Adhem” exemplifies alliteration, a literary technique where the same consonant sound is repeated at the beginning of closely positioned words. This specific instance highlights the use of the ‘d’ sound to create a rhythmic effect in the poem. For further examples of alliteration within the poem, readers should analyse the text to locate additional occurrences.
1. What was Abou Ben Adhem doing when the angel appeared?
A. Sleeping B. Praying C. Writing D. Waking up from a dream
Answer: D. Waking up from a dream
9. Which literary device is used in “a deep dream of peace”?
A. Simile B. Metaphor C. Personification D. Alliteration
Answer: D. Alliteration
Extra Questions and Answers
1. What was the angel writing in his golden book when Abou saw him?
Answer: The angel was writing down the names of all those people who love God when Abou saw him in his room.
6. Analyse the conversation between Abou Ben Adhem and the angel.
Answer: The mystic dialogue between Abou and the celestial angel is central to the poem’s message. When Abou first witnesses the angel noting the names of God’s beloveds, he politely asks if his own name features, and accepts graciously when the angel says no. This lack of ego shows Abou’s humility. However, Abou then makes a heartfelt request to be recognized as one who loves his fellow beings. The angel is clearly moved by this selflessness, returns the next night and shows Abou that love of mankind has made him God’s most blessed. The entire exchange highlights how spiritual grace comes not from ritualistic devotion but from compassion towards others, subtly questioning religious orthodoxy. Abou’s quiet confidence in his actions, his egoless dialogue with the divine, and the eventual exalting of his name for his service to humanity provide a deeply philosophical answer to society’s questions about true meaning of spirituality.
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