Keeping Quiet: MBOSE Class 12 English Core notes, answers

keeping quiet
Share with others

Get summaries, questions, answers, solutions, notes, extras, PDF of Class 12 English Core textbook (Resonance), Chapter 2, poem Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda 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. 

Select notes version
AHSEC/ASSEB Class 12 notes version
MBOSE Class 12 notes version

If you notice any errors in the notes, please mention them in the comments


The poem by Pablo Neruda encourages readers to pause and reflect on their actions. The poet begins by asking everyone to count to twelve and remain silent. This silence is meant to transcend language barriers and physical movements. He imagines a moment of stillness where there is no rush, and machinery comes to a halt. This would create a rare and unusual experience of peace and unity.

In this moment, even fishermen would stop harming whales, and workers, like the man gathering salt, would take a moment to observe their injuries instead of continuing their labor. The poet speaks against various forms of violence, including environmental destruction (“green wars”), chemical warfare (“wars with gas”), and nuclear warfare (“wars with fire”), emphasizing the futility of such conflicts which lead to “victory with no survivors.”

Neruda clarifies that his suggestion for stillness is not a call for death or total inactivity. Instead, he aims to promote a deeper understanding of life by interrupting our relentless pursuit of productivity and movement. He believes that a moment of profound silence could help us reflect on our lives and the sadness stemming from our disconnection and constant threats of violence.

The poet draws a parallel between the Earth’s natural cycles and human existence, suggesting that, like the Earth, which appears dead in winter but revives in spring, humanity can also find renewal through periods of stillness. He concludes by offering to count to twelve and then leave, encouraging readers to use those seconds to embrace silence and introspection.

The poem is a plea for a brief respite from our incessant activity, to foster peace, reflection, and a better understanding of ourselves and the world. It highlights the destructive nature of various forms of violence and the importance of finding moments of quiet to reconnect with life.

Register Login

Line-byline explanation

And now we will count to twelve / and we will all keep still.

The poet suggests a brief pause in our daily activities by counting to twelve, symbolizing a small, manageable unit of time. He encourages everyone to remain silent and motionless during this period.

For once on the face of the Earth / let’s not speak in any language, / let’s stop for one second, / and not move our arms so much.

Neruda proposes a universal silence, transcending all languages and cultures. He urges us to cease all movement and verbal communication for just one second, emphasizing the simplicity and attainability of this request.

It would be an exotic moment / without rush, without engines, / we would all be together / in a sudden strangeness.

The poet envisions this moment of stillness as unique and extraordinary (“exotic”), free from the usual haste and mechanical noises of modern life. This shared silence would create a sense of unity and unfamiliar tranquility among people.

Fishermen in the cold sea / would not harm whales / and the man gathering salt / would look at his hurt hands.

During this pause, those who usually engage in harmful or laborious activities, like fishermen and salt gatherers, would stop their work. The fishermen would refrain from harming whales, and the salt gatherer would take a moment to acknowledge his own pain, highlighting a rare opportunity for empathy and self-awareness.

Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire, / victory with no survivors, / would put on clean clothes / and walk about with their brothers / in the shade, doing nothing.

Neruda criticizes those who instigate various forms of conflict, including environmental destruction (“green wars”), chemical warfare (“wars with gas”), and nuclear warfare (“wars with fire”). He imagines these individuals abandoning their destructive pursuits, symbolized by putting on clean clothes, and peacefully coexisting with others in the shade, engaging in no activity.

What I want should not be confused / with total inactivity. / Life is what it is about; / I want no truck with death.

The poet clarifies that his call for stillness is not an endorsement of inactivity or lifelessness. He emphasizes that his intention is to promote a fuller, more mindful experience of life, rather than any association with death or cessation of existence.

If we were not so single-minded / about keeping our lives moving, / and for once could do nothing, / perhaps a huge silence / might interrupt this sadness / of never understanding ourselves / and of threatening ourselves with death.

Neruda suggests that our obsession with constant activity prevents us from truly understanding ourselves and perpetuates a cycle of self-destruction. By embracing a moment of doing nothing, he believes we could break this cycle and confront the underlying sadness and existential threats we face.

Perhaps the earth can teach us / as when everything seems dead / and later proves to be alive.

Drawing a parallel with the Earth’s natural cycles, the poet suggests that just as the Earth appears lifeless in winter but rejuvenates in spring, humans can also learn to find life and vitality through periods of stillness and reflection.

Now I’ll count up to twelve / and you keep quiet and I will go.

The poet concludes by reiterating his initial request to count to twelve, urging the readers to remain silent and reflect during this brief period. He then leaves, symbolically passing the responsibility of this contemplation to the readers.

Textual questions and answers

Answer these questions briefly

1. What is the poet suggesting to us in the first two lines?

Answer: The poet is suggesting that we count to twelve and keep still.

2. What do you think the world would be like if all of us stopped talking or moving for a few seconds?

Answer: The world would be united in a sudden strangeness without rush or engines.

3. Why would that be an ‘exotic’ moment? What do the words ‘rush’ and ‘engines’ bring to mind?

Answer: It would be an exotic moment because it is unusual and peaceful. The words ‘rush’ and ‘engines’ bring to mind constant movement and noise.

4. What are the activities that the poet speaks out against in the fourth stanza?

Answer: The poet speaks out against wars with gas, wars with fire, and victory with no survivors.

5. Does the phrase ‘green’ wars make you think that ‘green’ is a strange ‘adjective’ to wars? Could the poet be hinting at ‘war on the green planet’?

Answer: Yes, the phrase ‘green’ wars is strange because we usually associate ‘green’ with peace and nature. The poet could be hinting at the environmental damage that wars cause.

6. There are three phrases in the fifth stanza which hint at the twentieth-century wars-wars with gas, wars with fire, and victory with no survivors. Guess what kind of war will be completely disastrous to mankind.

Answer: A nuclear war will be completely disastrous to mankind.

7. Death brings about stillness. Does the poet want that kind of stillness?

Answer: No, the poet does not want the stillness that death brings.

8. What are all of us constantly moving towards? What is the goal of this never-ending movement? Why is the world on the move all the time? What is the poet referring to as ‘sadness’?

Answer: We are constantly moving towards progress and survival. The goal of this never-ending movement is to keep our lives moving. The world is on the move all the time because of this pursuit. The poet refers to this as ‘sadness.’

9. What can the earth teach us? Explain what these lines suggest to you.

Answer: The earth can teach us that when everything seems dead, it later proves to be alive. This suggests that periods of inactivity or stillness can lead to renewal and life.

10. Why does the poet say that he would count up to twelve and leave us? What does he want us to do in those twelve seconds?

Answer: The poet says he would count up to twelve and leave us to give us a moment to reflect and be still. He wants us to experience the silence and stillness in those twelve seconds.

Answer these questions in detail

Do you think the poet recommends total inactivity? Or, is he asking for a slowing down of the relentless hyper-activity that human beings engage in? Discuss the poet’s views in context.

Answer: The poet does not recommend total inactivity but rather a slowing down of the relentless hyper-activity that human beings engage in. He suggests that we take a moment to pause, reflect, and experience stillness. This brief period of silence and inactivity is not about promoting laziness or inactivity but about fostering a deeper understanding of ourselves and our surroundings. By pausing, we can break free from the constant rush and noise that characterize modern life and gain a clearer perspective on what truly matters. The poet highlights the importance of balance and the need to occasionally step back from our hectic routines to appreciate the world around us and find inner peace.

Appreciating language

1. Pablo Neruda creates easily understood images which are beautiful in their simplicity. Describe any one such image in the poem in your own words.

Answer: One such image in the poem is that of fishermen in the cold sea not harming whales and the man gathering salt looking at his hurt hands. This image is powerful in its simplicity, as it vividly portrays a moment of stillness and reflection. The fishermen, usually engaged in their daily toil, pause to consider the impact of their actions on the whales. Similarly, the man gathering salt stops to acknowledge his own pain, symbolized by his hurt hands. These moments of awareness and empathy highlight the poet’s call for a more thoughtful and compassionate approach to life, where people take the time to reflect on their actions and their effects on the world around them.

2. What does the poet refer to in ‘green wars’? Is there a contradiction?

Answer: In ‘green wars,’ the poet refers to conflicts that involve or impact the natural environment. There is a contradiction in this phrase, as ‘green’ typically connotes nature, peace, and life, while ‘wars’ signify destruction, conflict, and death. By juxtaposing these terms, the poet highlights the irony and tragedy of wars that damage the very planet we depend on for survival. This contradiction serves to emphasize the senselessness of such conflicts and the urgent need to protect our environment rather than destroy it. The poet’s use of ‘green wars’ underscores the environmental degradation caused by human actions and the imperative to adopt more sustainable and peaceful ways of living.


What are the threats that mankind is facing today? What causes those threats? How can these be countered? Write an essay using some of the ideas expressed in the poem.

Answer: Threats Mankind is Facing Today: Causes and Solutions Inspired by the Poem

Today, mankind faces several significant threats that jeopardize our existence and the well-being of our planet. These threats include environmental degradation, climate change, nuclear proliferation, and relentless wars. Each of these threats has profound implications for our future, and understanding their causes and potential solutions is crucial for safeguarding our world.

Environmental Degradation and Climate Change

One of the most pressing threats is environmental degradation and climate change. Human activities, such as deforestation, pollution, and the excessive use of fossil fuels, have led to a dramatic increase in greenhouse gases, resulting in global warming. The poem’s reference to ‘green wars’ highlights the irony of harming the environment, which should be a source of life and sustenance. To counter this threat, it is essential to adopt sustainable practices, reduce carbon emissions, and invest in renewable energy sources. Global cooperation and stringent environmental policies are necessary to mitigate the impact of climate change and protect our planet for future generations.

Nuclear Proliferation and War

Nuclear proliferation and the constant threat of war represent another major danger to humanity. The poem alludes to wars with gas, fire, and total destruction, hinting at the catastrophic consequences of modern warfare. The destructive power of nuclear weapons poses an existential threat to all life on Earth. To address this, nations must work towards disarmament and non-proliferation treaties, promote diplomatic resolutions to conflicts, and foster international peace and security. Building trust and cooperation among nations can reduce the likelihood of war and ensure a more stable and peaceful world.

Social and Economic Inequality

Social and economic inequality also poses a significant threat, leading to social unrest and instability. The relentless pursuit of progress and economic growth often exacerbates disparities between the rich and the poor. The poem’s call for a moment of stillness and reflection can inspire us to rethink our economic models and prioritize policies that promote social justice and equity. Investing in education, healthcare, and social welfare can help bridge the gap and create a more inclusive and fair society.

Loss of Biodiversity

The loss of biodiversity is another critical issue, driven by habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change. The poem’s imagery of fishermen in the cold sea and the man gathering salt suggests a deep connection between humans and nature. Preserving biodiversity is vital for maintaining ecological balance and ensuring the health of our ecosystems. Efforts to protect endangered species, conserve natural habitats, and promote sustainable land use practices are essential in countering this threat.


The threats facing mankind today are multifaceted and interconnected, requiring a comprehensive and collaborative approach to address them. The poem’s themes of stillness, reflection, and the need for a more compassionate and sustainable way of living offer valuable insights into how we can counter these threats. By embracing environmental stewardship, promoting peace and disarmament, addressing social inequalities, and preserving biodiversity, we can build a more resilient and harmonious world. It is imperative that we take collective action now to secure a better future for ourselves and generations to come.

Extra fill in the blanks

1. And now we will count to twelve and we will all keep ______. (still/silent)

Answer: still

Missing answers are only available to registered users. Please register or login if already registered

12. Now I’ll count up to twelve and you keep quiet and I will ______. (leave/go)

Answer: go

Extra true or false

1. The poet suggests that we should keep still and count to twelve.

Answer: True

Missing answers are only available to registered users. Please register or login if already registered

13. The poet will count up to twelve and then stay with us.

Answer: False

Extra question and answer

1. “And now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still.”

(i) What action does the poet suggest?

Answer: The poet suggests that everyone should count to twelve and remain still.

(ii) What is the significance of counting to twelve?

Answer: Counting to twelve symbolizes a pause, a moment of stillness and reflection.

(iii) What does the poet hope to achieve by keeping still?

Answer: The poet hopes to achieve a sense of unity and peace by having everyone keep still.

Missing answers are only available to registered users. Please register or login if already registered

17. How does the poet differentiate between total inactivity and the stillness he desires?

Answer: The poet clarifies that he does not want total inactivity, which implies death. Instead, he desires a pause from our relentless activity to reflect and understand ourselves better. This stillness is not about ceasing all actions but about taking a momentary break from our single-minded pursuit of progress and movement. By doing nothing for once, we might find clarity and peace, interrupting the sadness of our usual, unreflective rush through life.

Get notes of other boards, classes, and subjects

Custom Notes ServiceQuestion papers

Share with others

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Only registered users are allowed to copy.