Here are the summary, questions, answers, and notes of the poem Sonnet to Science by Edgar Allan Poe which is a part of Alternative English Syllabus of class 9 for students studying under Nagaland Board of School Education. However, these notes should be used only for references and additions/modifications should be made as per the requirements.
SUMMARY: The poet Poe was unhappy with the technological advances that were sweeping America. He was well aware of the negative fallout of the industrial revolution in England, particularly concerning the living conditions of the working class, and the lives of women and children. In addition, he feared that undue emphasis on logic and facts alone, at the expense of imagination and intuition, could harm the way human beings felt and thought. For Poe and other Romantic writers, science held the threat of destroying humanity.
Sonnet To Science appears to initiate a debate: the advancement of the science of the modern world versus the imagination, values and ideals found in nature and in the human soul.
The poet is upset that Science, the daughter of Time, should prey upon the heart of the poet. He uses the image of the vulture for Science. The poet also refers to classical mythology-Diana; the Roman goddess of the moon (who rides her moon chariot across the skies), of woodlands and hunting; Hamadryad, the tree nymph. In Greek mythology, some believe the tree nymph is the actual tree. These nymphs are associated with particular trees and when the trees die they die too; Naiad, the water nymph. The argument appears that if Science takes away myth, then it takes away the reality of the human imagination. The poet also makes a reference to elfins or fairies, which Science would regard as a non-fact.
I. Explain with reference to context.
1. Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet’s heart,
Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
a. How does the poet present Science in line 1?
b. Pick out a verb and a phrase that relate Science and the vulture.
c. What do ‘dull realities’ refer to?
Answer: a) The poet presents science in line one as the daughter of Old Time.
b) The verb that relates science and the vulture is preyest.
c) Dull realities are referred here to the reality that is not bound by human imaginations but facts and figures that science gives emphasis on.
2. Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?
a. The poet appears to accuse Science of having displaced people. Locate the subject and the dwelling place.
b. What is the possible outcome of the’summer dream’?
c. Identify the couplet and the rhyme scheme.
Answer: a) The subjects here are Naiad, Elfin, and the poet. Their dwelling places are the flood (water), green grass, and the tamarind tree respectively.
b) The possible outcome of the summer dream is that it could have led to new creative ideas in the mind of the poet.
c) The last two lines are the couplet. The rhyme scheme of the sonnet is ABAB, CDCD, EFEFGG.
ll. Answer these questions.
1. What is the impression you form of the poet from this sonnet? Does this match your own image of a poet? Explain.
Answer: From this Sonnet, I understand that the poet Edgar Allan Poe is disturbed by the way science has invaded the creative space of the individuals and the way it is trying to define everything on the basis of facts and figures which limit imagination. The poet is a dreamer as well as slow to adapt to inevitable changes.
It does match my own image of a poet. I believe poets and writers are dreamers who need to be very imaginative. Understandably, Poe does not see the invasion of science which discredit imagination by facts and figures very positively.
2. Does this poem trouble you? Explain your reasons.
Answer: The poem does not trouble me as we have become very used to changes. We have marked clear lines between science and imagination and do not confuse one for another. Science is inevitable and acceptance is therefore necessary. In the 21st century, changes are happening at a very faster rate than they used to during the time of the poet and since we have understood that change is the only constant, it does not trouble as the way it did the poet.
Ron’e Dutta is the Co-Founder and Editor of Online Free Notes. He is a journalist, a blogger, a creative writer, and a teacher. He is currently writing his first thriller novel on time-travelling. Read the prologue of the novel here. Connect with him on social media.