Get notes, solutions, summary, textual questions and answers, extras, MCQs, and pdf of the poem Asleep In The Valley by Arthur Rimbaud which is part of (West Bengal Board) WBCHSE Class 12 English syllabus. However, the notes should only be treated for references and changes should be made according to the needs of the students.
The poem Asleep In The Valley opens by describing a serene natural setting – a small green valley with a softly flowing stream that leaves silvery strands on the bright grass. The sun’s rays stream down from the mountain tops, filling the valley with light.
In this idyllic scene lies a young soldier, asleep with his mouth open. His head rests on a pillow of ferns and his body is stretched out in the thick undergrowth. He sleeps peacefully in the warm, green, sun-drenched bed of flowers.
The soldier has a gentle, innocent smile, like that of a baby. He is untroubled as he sleeps, with one hand resting on his chest. The humming insects do not disturb his deep rest. He sleeps in the warm sunlight, completely at peace.
Yet this pastoral image is shattered in the closing line, as we learn that the soldier has two red bullet holes in his side. He has died in this valley, cut down in the prime of youth. The contrast between the tranquil natural world and the soldier’s violent death underscores the tragedy of warfare.
Though nature continues on, oblivious, the young man’s life has been lost. Rimbaud vividly evokes both the beauty of the valley and the sad fate of the soldier through crisp, imagistic language. The poem laments the loss of life and highlights the harsh realities of war intruding upon nature’s calm repose.
Line by line explanation
A small green valley where a slow stream flows
The poet establishes a peaceful natural setting – a small, fertile green valley through which a stream flows slowly and calmly.
And leaves long strands of silver on the bright
Grass; from the mountain top stream the Sun’s
As it flows, the stream leaves behind long, shiny strands of water on the vibrant, vivid green grass. Meanwhile, sunlight beams down from the mountain tops.
Rays; they fill the hollow full of light.
The sun’s bright rays completely fill the hollow valley with abundant light.
A soldier, very young, lies open-mouthed,
A young soldier, likely in his late teens or early 20s, lies asleep with his mouth open. His youth highlights his vulnerability.
A pillow made of fern beneath his head,
The soldier rests his head on a makeshift pillow of fern, using nature for comfort.
Asleep; stretched in the heavy undergrowth,
He is stretched out and asleep in the thick, dense undergrowth of the valley’s plant life and vegetation.
Pale in his warm, green, sun-soaked bed.
Though his face is pale, the rest of his body is immersed in the warm, green bed of grass and flowers, soaked by the sun.
His feet among the flowers, he sleeps. His smile
Is like an infant’s — gentle, without guile.
As he sleeps, his feet are nestled in the flowers. A gentle, innocent smile rests on his face, reminiscent of a baby’s pure and harmless smile.
Ah, Nature, keep him warm; he may catch cold.
The speaker apostrophizes nature, pleading with it to keep the sleeping soldier warm so he doesn’t get ill from the cold.
The humming insects don’t disturb his rest;
The soft, lulling hum of insects does not break the soldier’s deep slumber.
He sleeps in sunlight, one hand on his breast;
Still asleep, he lies bathed in sunlight with one hand resting gently on his chest as it rises and falls with each breath.
At peace. In his side there are two red holes.
He remains completely at peace and unaware, even as there are two bloody bullet holes torn in his side. This shockingly reveals he has died in battle.
Short/very short questions and answers
1. What is the setting of the poem?
Answer: The setting is a small, green valley with a gently flowing stream and sunlight shining down from the mountain tops.
2. How is the stream described?
Answer: The stream is described as slow moving and leaving behind long, silvery strands on the grass.
3. Where does the sunlight come from?
Answer: The sunlight streams down from the mountain tops.
4. Who is asleep in the valley?
Answer: A young soldier is asleep in the valley.
5. What is the soldier’s pillow made of?
Answer: The soldier’s pillow is made of fern.
6. How is the soldier’s smile described?
Answer: His smile is described as gentle and innocent, like that of an infant.
7. What does the poet plead with nature to do?
Answer: The poet asks nature to keep the soldier warm so he does not catch cold.
8. What does not disturb the sleeping soldier?
Answer: The humming insects do not disturb the soldier’s deep sleep.
9. How does the soldier sleep in the sunlight?
Answer: He sleeps peacefully and at ease in the sunlight.
10. What shocking detail is revealed about the soldier at the end?
Answer: There are two fatal red bullet holes in the soldier’s side, indicating he has died in battle.
11. How is the valley described?
Answer: The valley is described as small, green, and fertile.
12. What fills the hollow of the valley?
Answer: Sunlight fills the hollow of the valley.
13. How does the poet describe the undergrowth?
Answer: The undergrowth is described as “heavy.”
14. What happened to the soldier?
Answer: He was shot and killed in battle.
15. What contrast is highlighted in the poem?
Answer: The contrast between peaceful nature and the violent death of the young soldier is highlighted.
Analytical/descriptive/long questions and answers
1. How does the poet depict the valley in the opening lines? What impression is created of this setting?
Answer: The valley is immediately established as “small” and “green,” words that connote a lush, verdant landscape on an intimate scale. Calling it a “valley” suggests it is a low-lying area nestled between rising slopes. Furthermore, the valley has a “slow stream” flowing through it, which evokes a sense of calmness and gentle movement rather than rushing turbulence. Details like the stream leaving “long strands of silver” on the “bright grass” create an impression of glistening liveliness. The diction is pastoral and picturesque, with words like “bright,” “green,” “silver,” and “light” that give the landscape vivid color and serene vitality. Overall, the opening lines paint an idyllic natural setting full of fertile beauty and peace.
2. In what ways does the poet portray the stream flowing through the valley? What effects does it have on the surrounding landscape?
Answer: The stream meanders slowly through the valley, enhancing the peaceful atmosphere established in the first line. Its leisurely movement leaves behind trails of shimmering water on the blades of grass, suggesting a tranquil ebb and flow. The stream seems to make the verdant landscape even more vibrant – the grass is “bright” and touched with “strands of silver” from the water. The stream has an animating effect on its surroundings, its “silver strands” glinting on the grass like jewelry adorning the earth. The tranquil movement, glittering trails, and enriching presence of the stream give it a subtle yet beautifying impact on the valley.
3. How would you characterize the sunlight described in the poem? What imagery is used to convey the light filling the valley?
Answer: The sunlight is portrayed as abundant and radiant, powerfully streaming into every corner of the valley. It originates from the mountain tops, conveying its strength as it flows down into the low-lying hollow. Imagery like “fill the hollow full of light” makes the sunlight seem rich and pervasive, inundating the entire vale with its bright presence. Words like “stream” and “rays” give the sunlight a tangible, flowing quality while words like “bright” and “light” emphasize its vivid brilliance. Overall, it is characterized as a powerful, vivifying, boundless light source bathing the valley in resplendent illumination.
4. How does the poet introduce the young soldier? What key details are we given about this figure?
Answer: The young soldier is introduced abruptly with no lead-up or background, which highlights his sudden presence in this otherwise uninhabited landscape. He is described simply as “a soldier, very young” – the only salient details about him initially are his occupation and youth. Referring to him as “very young” rather than “a young man” emphasizes his status as a vulnerable boy still in the springtime of life rather than a hardened, mature soldier. No other details are provided about his uniform or weapons, allowing the focus to remain squarely on his tender age and defenseless state as he slumbers unaware.
5. Describe the soldier’s sleeping state. What aspects of his posture and appearance are highlighted?
Answer: The soldier sleeps deeply and peacefully, with an unguarded open mouth indicating his comfort and sense of safety in the valley. His body is relaxed and stretched out languorously, with no tension or tossing and turning described. He uses a makeshift fern pillow showing his ease amidst nature. While his complexion is pale, perhaps from exertion, the rest of his body blends into the landscape – immersed in flowers and foliage, nestled in the “warm, green, sun-soaked bed” of the grass. Details like his parted lips, improvised pillow, and immersion in the plants all reflect the naturalness and restoration he feels sleeping in this tranquil environment.
6. Analyze the description of the soldier’s smile. What is the significance of comparing it to an infant’s?
Answer: The soldier’s smile is portrayed as gentle and innocent, likened to a baby’s to highlight his youth, purity, and obliviousness. As an infant’s smile is harmless, guileless, and vulnerable, this simile underscores how the slumbering soldier is untroubled, unaware, and trusting. The childlike smile reinforces his extreme youth and suggests he feels completely safe and at peace. It is deeply ironic that such an innocent young man has been made a soldier and placed in harm’s way in the adult world of war. His babyish smile serves as a striking emblem of his defenselessness.
7. Examine the line “Ah, Nature, keep him warm; he may catch cold.” Why does the speaker apostrophize nature in this way?
Answer: This line contains an apostrophe, a rhetorical device in which the speaker addresses an absent or inanimate object as if it were alive and present. Here, the speaker cries out to personified Nature as if it were a caring, protecting mother who could shelter the sleeping soldier like a child. Pleading for Nature to “keep him warm” shows deep concern lest the exposed soldier become chilled in the elements. Imbuing Nature with maternal traits dramatizes the speaker’s anxiety and highlights how vulnerable the slumbering soldier is, needing to be shielded by metaphorical forces greater than himself.
8. What is the effect of the phrase “The humming insects don’t disturb his rest”? How does it relate to the soldier’s deep sleep?
Answer: This phrase underscores just how soundly the young soldier sleeps amidst nature’s rhythms. Even the soft, lulling hum of insects does not rouse him from slumber. This highlights his body’s complete comfort and relaxation, sunk in deep restorative sleep undisturbed even by subtle background sounds of the valley. The soldier’s unfazed repose relates to the tranquility of the landscape. Just as the stream flows slowly and the insects hum soothingly, the soldier’s sleep is untroubled and profound, reflecting the peace of his natural surroundings.
9. Discuss the meaning of the line “He sleeps in sunlight, one hand on his breast.” What is the significance of these details about the soldier?
Answer: The line conveys the soldier’s continued state of peaceful sleep, emphasizing his ongoing obliviousness through words like “sleeps” and “sunlight.” The sunlight bathes him, keeping him warm and content amidst nature’s cycles. His hand resting gently on his own breast is a touching detail – both a symbol of deep relaxation and also an unconscious self-soothing gesture of security. The slow breathing motion of his hand rising and falling subtly reinforces the life within him. Together these details underscore the soldier’s humanity, innocence, and vulnerability as he sleeps cradled within nature’s benevolent care.
10. How does the closing couplet contrast with the rest of the poem? What is revealed and how does it change the meaning of what came before?
Answer: The pastoral serenity and soothing lullaby rhythm of the octave are shockingly contrasted with the sestet’s harsh revelation of the “two red holes” in the soldier’s side. These bloody bullet wounds reveal that the sleeping soldier is dead, destroyed by the violence of war. This transforms the poem’s meaning – no longer an idyllic scene but now a tragic memorial to a young life lost. The brutality of the soldier’s unnatural end contrasts heartbreakingly with the harmony of nature he had slept within. The closing image ruptures the tranquil mood with horrific reality. Whereas before the soldier seemed at one with nature, now we see nature enduring detachedly while human society perpetrates vicious harm upon its own.
Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)
1. What is the setting of the poem?
A. A barren desert B. A small green valley C. A dark forest D. A snowy mountain peak
Answer: B. A small green valley
2. How does the stream flow through the valley?
A. Violently B. Slowly C. Erratically D. Not mentioned
Answer: B. Slowly
3. What does the stream leave behind on the grass?
A. Puddles B. Long strands of silver C. Short strands of gold D. Ripples
Answer: B. Long strands of silver
4. Where do the sun’s rays come from?
A. The sky B. The clouds C. The mountain tops D. Behind the trees
Answer: C. The mountain tops
5. What fills the hollow of the valley?
A. Darkness B. Birdsong C. Sunlight D. Flowers
Answer: C. Sunlight
6. Who lies asleep in the valley?
A. An old man B. A young soldier C. A baby D. The poet
Answer: B. A young soldier
7. What is the soldier’s pillow made of?
A. His jacket B. Moss C. Fern D. Grass
Answer: C. Fern
8. Where are the soldier’s feet located?
A. Crossed B. Hidden C. Among the flowers D. Not mentioned
Answer: C. Among the flowers
9. How is the soldier’s smile described?
A. Sly B. Peaceful C. Like an infant’s D. Bright
Answer: C. Like an infant’s
10. What is the soldier unaware of as he sleeps?
A. His impending death B. The humming insects C. The sun on his face D. The flowers beneath him
Answer: A. His impending death
11. What does the poet ask nature to do?
A. Wake the soldier B. Protect the soldier C. Heal the soldier D. Hide the soldier
Answer: B. Protect the soldier
12. What does not disturb the soldier’s rest?
A. The chirping birds B. The humming insects C. The swaying grass D. The babbling stream
Answer: B. The humming insects
13. Where does the soldier have his hand?
A. Clasped in prayer B. Holding his gun C. On his breast D. Reaching for a flower
Answer: C. On his breast
14. How does the soldier sleep in the sunlight?
A. Fitfully B. Restlessly C. At peace D. While shivering
Answer: C. At peace
15. Where are the two red holes located?
A. In the soldier’s chest B. In the soldier’s head C. In the soldier’s side D. In the soldier’s back
Answer: C. In the soldier’s chest.
16. What has happened to the soldier?
A. He has fallen ill B. He has been shot C. He has deserted D. He is lost
Answer: B. He has been shot
17. What does the red holes indicate?
A. Flower stains B. Bullet wounds C. Insect bites D. Blood clots
Answer: B. Bullet wounds
18. What does the poet highlight through contrast?
A. Life and death B. Past and present C. Darkness and light D. Nature and war
Answer: D. Nature and war
19. What feeling does the poem evoke about war?
A. Heroism B. Futility C. Adventure D. Honor
Answer: B. Futility
Get notes of other boards, classes, and subjects