Caring for Animals: MBOSE Class 12 English Core notes, answers

Caring for Animals
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Get summaries, questions, answers, solutions, notes, extras, PDF and guide of Class 12 English Core textbook (Resonance), poem chapter 4 Caring for Animals by Jon Silkin, which is part of the syllabus of students studying under MBOSE (Meghalaya Board). These solutions, however, should only be treated as references and can be modified/changed. 

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The poem “Caring for Animals” by Jon Silkin reflects on the responsibility humans have towards animals. The poet begins by questioning why humans should care for small animals with “bitter eyes” and seeks answers from nature—the sky and the serene blue water. However, these elements do not provide an answer. This lack of response brings forth images in the poet’s mind of mistreated animals, such as dogs with clipped ears, wheezing horses, and a fly without shadow or thought. These images represent the menaces to human vision.

The poem continues with a reference to a man carrying wood, leading a procession of suffering animals. This man symbolises the burden of caring for these creatures. The poet suggests that even the “holy land” and the “green island,” which can be interpreted as England or one’s homeland, should be more compassionate. Despite this, the animals, described as “ghosts,” still need care. The poet calls for humans to take in abused animals like whipped cats, blinded owls, and squirrels caught in traps, showing mercy and moderate love.

Through this care for animals, the poet believes that humans develop a greater love for all creatures, including their own species, referred to as the “human animal.” This love grows and deepens, emphasising the connection between caring for animals and nurturing compassion and empathy within oneself.

The poem conveys a message of moral duty and the transformative power of compassion. By helping animals in distress, humans not only benefit the animals but also experience personal growth. The act of caring for hapless animals leads to an evolution of feelings, fostering greater love and humanity.

The poet employs various literary devices to enhance the poem’s impact. For instance, metaphors like “a man carrying wood” symbolise the burden of responsibility, and “the human animal” refers to humans’ innate nature. Transferred epithets, such as “bitter eyes” and “wheezing cart horses,” shift attributes from humans to animals, highlighting their suffering caused by human actions.

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Line-byline explanation

I ask sometimes why these small animals / With bitter eyes, why we should care for them.

The poet often wonders about the significance of caring for small animals, particularly those that seem to have eyes filled with bitterness or resentment. The poet is puzzled by the need for human empathy towards these creatures, questioning the fundamental reasons behind it.

I question the sky, the serene blue water, / But it cannot say. It gives no answer.

In an attempt to find answers, the poet turns to nature, looking up at the vast, open sky and the calm, clear blue water. These elements, symbols of natural beauty and tranquility, remain silent and do not provide any answers or guidance on why humans should care for animals.

And no answer releases in my head / A procession of grey shades patched and whimpering,

The lack of answers from nature causes the poet’s mind to conjure up a series of haunting images. These images resemble a procession of ghostly figures, all grey and patched, who are crying out in low, broken voices, expressing their pain and suffering.

Dogs with clipped ears, wheezing cart horses, / A fly without shadow and without thought.

Among these distressing images, the poet sees dogs with their ears cruelly cut short, horses struggling to breathe as they pull heavy carts, and a fly that seems to have lost its shadow and sense of purpose, appearing lifeless and devoid of thought.

Is it with these menaces to our vision, / With this procession led by a man carrying wood / We must be concerned?

The poet questions whether these troubling sights, these “menaces” to human vision, represent the burdens and sufferings of animals that we should be worried about. The “man carrying wood” symbolizes a heavy burden, possibly representing the responsibility humans have towards these suffering creatures.

The holy land, the rearing / Green island should be kindlier than this.

Reflecting on the concept of a sacred or ideal land, the poet believes that such a place, often associated with moral goodness and natural beauty, should treat its animals with more kindness and compassion. This “Green island” could be a metaphor for the poet’s homeland or any land considered sacred and bountiful.

Yet the animals, our ghosts, need tending to.

Despite the idealistic view that the land should be kinder, the reality remains that these animals, described metaphorically as “ghosts,” still require human care and attention. They are like spirits haunting our conscience, reminding us of our moral duty towards them.

Take in the whipped cat and the blinded owl, / Take up the man-trapped squirrel up on your shoulder.

The poet calls for action, urging people to rescue and care for mistreated animals. This includes taking in cats that have been whipped and owls that have been blinded, as well as lifting squirrels caught in traps onto one’s shoulder, symbolizing a personal commitment to their well-being.

Attend to the unnecessary beasts.

The poet emphasizes the need to care for animals that society often considers unnecessary or insignificant. These “unnecessary beasts” still deserve compassion and attention despite their perceived lack of importance.

From growing mercy and a moderate love / Great love for the human animal occurs.

By showing even a moderate amount of mercy and love towards animals, the poet believes that humans can cultivate a profound and encompassing love for humanity itself. This compassion begins with small acts of kindness and grows into a greater love for all living beings.

And your love grows. Your great love grows and grows.

This initial act of mercy and moderate love towards animals sets off a chain reaction, causing one’s love to expand continuously. The poet envisions this love growing and deepening, eventually becoming a great and all-encompassing love that benefits both animals and humans alike.

Textual questions and answers

Answer these questions briefly

1. What does the poet question?

Answer: Why we should care for these small animals with bitter eyes.

a. Where does he go to find his answers about the care of animals?

Answer: He questions the sky and the serene blue water.

b. Is he satisfied with the result?

Answer: No, he is not satisfied with the result.

2. Mention all the creatures in the poem that are misused by man.

Answer: Dogs with clipped ears, wheezing cart horses, a whipped cat, a blinded owl, a man-trapped squirrel, and a fly without shadow and without thought.

3. Why do you think the small animals have ‘bitter eyes’?

Answer: Because they are mistreated and misused by humans, leading to their suffering and pain.

4. Read the third stanza.

a. What are ‘these menaces to our vision’?

Answer: The mistreated animals like the whipped cat, the blinded owl, and the man-trapped squirrel.

b. Who is being referred to in ‘the man carrying wood’?

Answer: Jesus Christ.

c. What does the word ‘rearing’ suggest to you?

Answer: It suggests nurturing and taking care of something with love and attention.

d. What do you think is the message conveyed in this stanza?

Answer: The message is that we should care for and tend to animals because they are dependent on us, and through this care, we develop greater love and compassion for all beings.

5. ‘From growing mercy and a moderate love Great love for the human animal occurs. And your love grows. Your great love grows and grows.’

a. What is the ‘human animal’?

Answer: The ‘human animal’ refers to humans.

b. What are the qualities that are developed in a person by caring for animals?

Answer: Mercy, love, and compassion.

Appreciating the poem

The poet makes a moving appeal for better treatment to all of God’s creatures. When someone helps an animal in distress, is only the animal benefited?

Answer: No, both the animal and the person who helps are benefited.

Are there any changes in the person who helps?

Answer: Yes, there are changes in the person who helps.

Describe how a person’s feelings evolve as he or she helps a hapless animal.

Answer: As a person helps a hapless animal, they experience a growing sense of mercy and moderate love. This, in turn, leads to a greater love for the human animal. The person’s love grows and grows as they continue to care for the animal in distress.

Appreciating language

The poet employs a number of poetic devices to create greater emphasis and effect in what he wishes to say.

1. You know that in literature, a word or phrase that is used to mean something quite different from itself in order to bring out the similarity between the two things is a metaphor. What do you understand by these metaphors?

a. A man carrying wood

Answer: This metaphor suggests a burden or responsibility that a person carries, similar to how one might carry a heavy load of wood.

b. The human animal

Answer: This metaphor emphasizes the idea that humans are also animals, highlighting the connection and shared qualities between humans and other animals.

2. A transferred epithet is the transfer of an epithet from one noun to another. Example: ‘restless night.’ The night was not restless, but the person who was awake through it was. Pick out two instances of transferred epithet in this poem.

Answer: The two instances of transferred epithet in this poem are:

  • “bitter eyes” – The eyes are not bitter, but the small animals with these eyes are.
  • “wheezing cart horses” – The cart horses are not wheezing, but they are made to work hard and are in pain, which causes them to wheeze.

Beyond the text

Have you read the novel Black Beauty? Compare and contrast the ideas of Anna Sewell in the book with the ones expressed in this poem.

Answer: Both Anna Sewell’s novel “Black Beauty” and Jon Silkin’s poem “Caring for Animals” emphasize the importance of treating animals with kindness and compassion. Sewell’s novel, through the story of Black Beauty, a horse, highlights the cruelty animals often endure at the hands of humans and advocates for humane treatment and empathy towards animals. Similarly, Silkin’s poem appeals for better treatment of all of God’s creatures, pointing out the unnecessary suffering inflicted on animals by humans and the moral duty to care for them.

However, while Sewell’s narrative focuses primarily on the experiences and mistreatment of horses, Silkin’s poem encompasses a broader range of animals, including dogs, cats, owls, and squirrels, reflecting on the general responsibility humans have towards all animals. Both works ultimately convey the message that compassion towards animals leads to a greater love and humanity within ourselves, but Sewell’s work does so through a detailed, story-driven approach, whereas Silkin uses poetic imagery and metaphor to evoke an emotional response and reflection on the reader’s part.

Extra fill in the blanks

1. I ask sometimes why these small animals with ______ eyes. (bitter/soft)

Answer: bitter

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13. The poet makes a moving appeal for better treatment to all of God’s ______. (creatures/enemies)

Answer: creatures

Extra true or false

1. The poet questions the sky and the serene blue water for answers.

Answer: True

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13. The poem makes an appeal for better treatment of all of God’s creatures.

Answer: True

Extra question and answer

Q. “I ask sometimes why these small animals / With bitter eyes, why we should care for them.”

(i) What does the poet ask about small animals?

Answer: The poet asks why we should care for small animals with bitter eyes.

(ii) How are the eyes of the small animals described?

Answer: The eyes of the small animals are described as bitter.

(iii) What is the poet questioning in these lines?

Answer: The poet is questioning the reason for caring for small animals.

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16. Describe the poet’s view on how caring for animals affects human love and compassion.

Answer: The poet believes that caring for animals leads to the development of mercy and moderate love, which in turn fosters great love for the human animal. This growing love and compassion are seen as essential qualities that improve humanity. The poet emphasizes that by tending to the suffering and neglected animals, we nurture our capacity for empathy and kindness, ultimately allowing our love to grow exponentially. This growth in love and compassion towards animals also reflects our moral and ethical responsibility to care for all living beings, leading to a kinder and more humane society.

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