Preludes: BSEM Class 10 English Literature questions, answers

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Get summary, textual solutions, questions, answers, notes. pdf, extras to the poem/chapter “Preludes” by T.S. Eliot which is a part of Class 10 English Literature Reader syllabus for students studying under Manipur Board (BSEM).


The poem depicts the cheerless and depressing atmosphere of a modern industrial city. The first stanza describes a winter evening scene. As evening sets in, the smell of cooking steaks fills the air in the alleys and passageways. The time is six o’ clock in the evening. The days are compared to “burnt-out” and “smoky” cigarette butts, suggesting lifelessness and pollution. Gusty rain showers blow grimy dead leaves around people’s feet. The rain beats against broken window blinds and chimney pots. At a street corner, a lonely cab horse steams and stamps its feet impatiently in the cold. Finally, the street lamps are lit, bringing some light but no real warmth or cheer.

The second stanza describes the dull morning scene. As people wake up, they become conscious of the faint stale smell of beer on the streets, left over from the drinking of the night before. The streets are muddy with sawdust strewn around to absorb the mud. People with muddy feet from the streets crowd around early morning coffee stands. As the day’s meaningless routines and activities resume, one thinks of the routine actions in every household – hands raising dingy window shades in countless identical furnished rooms.

The poem paints a depressing picture of the cheerless, monotonous, and meaningless life in a modern city, through vivid sensory imagery of unpleasant sights, sounds, and smells. The images suggest pollution, artificiality, isolation, and lack of natural beauty and human connection. The title “Preludes” implies this is an introduction to a series of poems exploring the same dreary theme.

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Line by line explanation

The winter evening settles down

The poem opens by setting the scene of a winter evening descending on the city. Winter has connotations of gloom, darkness, and lifelessness.

With smell of steaks in passage ways.

The smell of cooking meat fills the alleys and passageways, adding an unpleasant odour to the cold evening atmosphere.

Six O’clock.

It is now six pm, the evening hour when people are returning home from work.

The burnt-out ends of smoky days.

The days are compared to cigarette butts – smoke-filled, polluting, and devoid of life.

And now a gusty shower wraps / The grimy scraps / Of withered leaves about your feet

A blustery rain storm blows dead, dirty leaves around people’s feet as they walk.

And newspapers from vacant lots;

Old newspapers blow around empty, abandoned lots, suggesting urban decay.

The showers beat / On broken blinds and chimney-pots,

The relentless rain beats against broken window blinds and chimney pots, emphasising the dilapidated setting.

And at the corner of the street / A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.

At a street corner, a solitary cab horse breathes out steam and stamps its feet, evoking a small sign of life but also impatience to get out of the cold.

And then the lighting of the lamps.

Finally, the street lamps are lit, bringing some light but failing to dispel the gloom.

The morning comes to consciousness / Of faint stale smells of beer

As morning arrives, people awaken to the lingering smells of beer left on the streets from revellers the night before.

From the sawdust-trampled street / With all its muddy feet that press / To early coffee-stands.

The streets are covered with sawdust to soak up the mud from people’s feet as they crowd around morning coffee vendors, starting another cheerless day.

With the other masquerades / That time resumes, / One thinks of all the hands / That are raising dingy shades / In a thousand furnished rooms.

As meaningless habitual routines recommence with the new day, one thinks of the routine actions in countless identical households, as hands lift dingy window shades in the drab furnished rooms where people lifeless live.

Textual questions and answers


A. Based on your understanding of the poem complete the following statements:

I. In the evening the city streets are filled with the _______.

Answer: smell of steaks

II. The rain in the evening makes the atmosphere _______.

Answer: cold and wet

III. The showers beat on _______.

Answer: broken blinds and chimney-pots

IV. The horse is steaming and stamping because _______.

Answer: it is cold and uncomfortable

V. The morning air is filled with _______.

Answer: the faint stale smell of beer

VI. The dirty walls in thousand rooms are filled with _______.

Answer: dingy shades

B. Answer the following questions in a sentence each:

I. What season of the year is suggested in the first stanza?

Answer: Winter

II. What is the evening compared to?

Answer: The burnt-out ends of smoky days

III. What surrounds the feet of the passersby?

Answer: Grimy scraps of withered leaves

IV. When do the showers beat?

Answer: In the evening

V. What does the cab-horse do?

Answer: It steams and stamps

VI. What smell fills the morning air?

Answer: The smell of stale beer

VII. How are the feet of the men going to coffee-stands?

Answer: Muddy

VIII. “………. hands
That are raising dinghy shades.”
Whose hands are referred to here?

Answer: The hands of people in the city​​.

C. Answer the following questions briefly:

I. “The winter evening settles down With smells of steaks in the passageways.” What do these lines suggest?

Answer: These lines suggest a city environment filled with the smells of cooking and an atmosphere of dullness.

II. Why does Eliot compare the evening with “the burnt out ends of smoky days”?

Answer: Eliot compares the evening to “the burnt out ends of smoky days” to symbolize the exhaustion and lifelessness of modern city life.

III. “The grimy scraps of withered leaves about your feet” What do these lines suggest?

Answer: These lines suggest the dirtiness and neglect in the city, where even the natural elements like leaves are withered and grimy.

IV. “The showers beat on broken blinds and chimney-pots.” What are the impressions created by these lines?

Answer: These lines create an impression of a bleak, decaying urban environment battered by rain.

V. What effect does Eliot want to create by the image “faint stale image of beers”?

Answer: Eliot wants to create an impression of staleness, lack of freshness, and a sense of weariness in the morning atmosphere of the city.

VI. “Sawdust-trampled street” Explain the image created by this line.

Answer: This line creates an image of dirty, muddy streets covered in sawdust, adding to the overall dreariness and squalor of the city environment.

VII. What are the “other masquerades” mentioned in second stanza?

Answer: The “other masquerades” refer to the various meaningless, monotonous activities that people engage in, out of habit and without genuine involvement or joy​​.

VIII. What are the “dinghy shades” mentioned in the 22nd line?

Answer: The “dinghy shades” refer to the dull shadows cast on dirty walls in city dwellings, symbolizing the monotonous and routine activities of the city residents​​.


A. Eliot wrote many poems in which he describes human beings as pitiable victims of circumstances that modern machine civilisation has created. The poem ‘Preludes’ is one of the earliest poems. In subsequent poems he would write more or less about the same theme – drab, cheerless society, men and women without creativity, etc.

Do you think the title ‘Preludes’ (introduction) has anything to do with Eliot’s series of writings? Explain it in a few lines.

Answer: The title ‘Preludes’ is significant in understanding T.S. Eliot’s broader series of writings. As an early poem, ‘Preludes’ introduces themes and motifs that Eliot continues to explore in his subsequent works. These themes predominantly revolve around the portrayal of human beings as tragic figures trapped in the confines of a modern, mechanized civilization. This setting often leads to a drab and cheerless society, where individuals lack creativity and vitality. By naming the poem ‘Preludes’, Eliot suggests that these ideas are just the beginning, or an introduction, to the more extensive and profound exploration of similar themes in his later works.

B. Write the alliterative sounds that Eliot has used in the poem.

Answer: In T.S. Eliot’s poem “Preludes,” there are several instances of alliteration, which is the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words. Here are some examples:

  • “Smell of steaks in passage ways.” – The repetition of the ‘s’ sound.
  • “The burnt-out ends of smoky days.” – The ‘s’ sound.
  • “Gusty shower wraps / The grimy scraps.” – The ‘s’ sound.
  • “Of withered leaves about your feet / And newspapers from vacant lots;” – The ‘s’ sound.
  • “On broken blinds and chimney-pots.” – The ‘p’ sound.
  • “A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.” – The ‘s’ sound.
  • “The morning comes to consciousness / Of faint stale smells of beer.” – The ‘s’ sound.
  • “With all its muddy feet that press / To early coffee-stands.” – The ‘p’ and ‘s’ sounds.
  • “One thinks of all the hands / That are raising dingy shades / In a thousand furnished rooms.” – The ‘sh’ sound.

Think and write

A. Think about the world/life Eliot describes in his poem.

Do you think such a life will be suitable to the growth of human mind and its creativity? Give your answer in a small paragraph.

Answer: In Eliot’s poem, the life depicted seems to be one of monotony and disillusionment, dominated by industrialization and a lack of personal connection. This type of environment, lacking in vibrancy and diversity, would likely not be conducive to the growth of the human mind and its creativity. Creativity thrives in environments that are rich in stimuli, diversity, and human interaction, all of which seem scarce in the world Eliot describes.

B. Now try to describe your own town/village in terms of the following:

I. Do you feel the atmosphere/environment of your town/village refreshing?

Answer: The atmosphere of my town is quite refreshing. It’s a place where natural beauty coexists with urban convenience, providing a serene environment that is both invigorating and relaxing.

II. How do you feel the environment–clean or polluted?

Answer: The environment in my town is predominantly clean. There is a strong emphasis on maintaining green spaces and keeping the streets free from litter, which contributes to a sense of overall cleanliness and care for the environment.

III. Are the people friendly and humanistic or are they selfish money-minded?

Answer: The people in my town are generally friendly and humanistic. There is a sense of community and shared responsibility, where people often engage in community activities and help each other out, rather than being solely driven by personal gain.

C. If you are asked for some suggestions that you want to be done to your place what will they be?

Answer: For my town, I would suggest enhancing public transportation options to reduce reliance on private vehicles, thus improving air quality and reducing traffic congestion. Additionally, creating more communal spaces for art, culture, and socializing would further enrich the town’s social fabric and promote greater community engagement.


1. Discuss the demerits of industrialisation on human spirit and society. You may note the following points:

i. People have become money-minded.

Answer: The advent of industrialization has significantly shifted societal values towards materialism and financial success, often at the expense of more humanistic qualities. This money-minded approach can lead to a reduction in communal bonds, empathy, and a sense of shared responsibility, as the pursuit of wealth becomes a dominant driving force in people’s lives.

ii. It has resulted in a wider gap between the poor and the rich.

Answer: Industrialization has often led to increased economic disparity, widening the gap between the rich and the poor. While it creates vast wealth for some, it frequently does so at the expense of the working class, who may face exploitative labor conditions and limited upward mobility. This growing divide can lead to social unrest, economic instability, and a weakening of the social fabric.

iii. Impact on environment.

Answer: The environmental impact of industrialization is profound and far-reaching. Industrial processes typically involve significant pollution and resource depletion, leading to habitat destruction, climate change, and a decline in biodiversity. The focus on industrial growth often overlooks environmental concerns, leading to long-term damage to the planet and its ecosystems.

Extra/additional questions and answers/solutions

1. What is the tone of the poem? What details in the poem contribute to this tone?

Answer: The tone of the poem is gloomy, depressing, and lacking vibrancy. Details that contribute to this include the winter evening setting, the burnt-out smoky days, the gusty cold rain, the grimy scraps and withered leaves, and the broken, tattered environment.

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10. How does Eliot portray city life as monotonous and meaningless in this poem?

Answer: Eliot uses repetition of dull images like mud, rain, dingy shades; a cyclical structure moving from evening to morning; and focus on monotonous routine. Phrases like “other masquerades” and “time resumes” directly state boredom with shallow routines, conveying city life lacks meaning.

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