The Wild Wood Flower – A Great American Classic, But What Does it Mean?

I’ll twine ‘mid the ringlets

Of my raven black hair,

The lilies so pale

And the roses so fair.

Without argument one of the most charming, intriguing, and captivating of all early American folk poems and songs is The Wildwood Flower. Its haunting tale has arrested the fascination and loyalty of untold thousands. A major feature of its fascination and holding-power lies in the fact that it is a riddle that has never been solved. Clearly, as the poem unfolds, the Wildwood Flower is a jilted girl, but what is the meaning of the other metaphors and symbols built into this classic? 

As the heartbroken lover sits alone in the wooded vale that was once their trysting place, she winds the locks of her raven black hair purposefully around her fingers. That image is clear enough but then the lyric becomes vague. Are the lilies flowers of the glen or are they a metaphor for something else? And what are the meanings of the roses, the myrtle, and the pale amanita with bright blue eyes? To the discerning reader or listener is evident that something other than the literal is intended here. The amanita is a deadly poison toadstool known as the Death Hood. It does not have bright blue eyes. And what can be said about the rest of the lyric? Is it simply a lament and a fantasy to try to comfort herself in her heartbreak and loneliness; or is it the revelation of a clever plot to take revenge on this opportunistic swain who has compromised her and then lost interest?

I am going to offer some thoughts as to what this fascinating tale says to me but before I do I want to preface it with some realities about the times in which this occurred, and these kinds of situations. In the lonely backwoods of early America opportunities for romance and a future did not come around that often. Beside that, in the times in which this poem was written, a girl who had lost her virtue had a greatly reduced chance of finding marriage and happiness with a respectable man. Lying to a young woman, telling her you loved her, seducing her, and then going off and leaving her was virtually a death sentence. The hatred and vengeance that eventually emerged from these numbing heartbreaks often resulted in the death of the offender. There are many such stories that have caught on as legends from the rural settings of early America. There is Frankie and Johnny, the Banks of the Ohio, Barbara Allen, and many others where jilted love and betrayal resulted in the death of the perpetrator. That having said, I wish to give you my version of the meaning of this elusive tale. 

It is obvious that I possess no special insights and what I am going to say is nothing more than my own opinion. It is not offered to contradict the conclusions of anyone else, to intrude into the sanctuary that may have been built up in anyone’s mind about this haunting story, or to in any way offend anyone. It is just my offering as to what is taking place here.

I’ll twine ‘mid the ringlets

Of my raven black hair,

The lilies so pale

And the roses so fair,

The myrtle so bright

With an emerald hue,

And the pale amanita

With eyes of bright blue.  

A girl is sitting, probably in the all-together, in a wooded glen where she used to meet with her lover, where she succumbed to his lies of love and marriage, and where she lost her virtue. The last line of verse 3 reveals that she is a frail girl and not a great physical beauty, but she has some charms. She has raven black hair which she is absently but aggressively twisting around her fingers. The Song of Solomon and other historic literature lay the foundation for inferring that lilies are her breasts. The roses are her glowing red cheeks, not glowing now because of love and excitement as in verse 2, but in this instance burning with anger and hurt. The myrtle is the dark green lashes over her eyes and the pale amanita is the ghostly white face, colorless with rage and hatred (the death hood), out of which bright blue eyes are blazing as if to make appear before her now in the glen the scene that she is envisioning in her mind.

2.

I’ll sing and I’ll dance,  

My laugh shall be gay;  

I’ll cease this wild weeping – 

Drive sorrow away,  

Tho’ my heart is now breaking,  

He never shall know  

That his name made me tremble  

And my pale cheeks to glow.  

The girl has struggled with heartbreak and hurt until her tears are dry. Now the desperate but futile hope that he will return to her has faded. In its place a plan for revenge has begun to form. First of all she must stop acting as if she cares. She must come to the party, throw herself with abandonment into the game, charm every man whom she can, and make herself an item of discussion and an object of ambition. All of this will be a part of her plot to get even with him for what he has done to her but he must never know it. He must be made to believe that she cared no more about him than he did about her and that he was just another of her flings.

3.

I’ll think of him never –

I’ll be wildly gay,  

I’ll charm ev’ry heart,  

And the crowd I will sway,  

I’ll live yet to see him,  

Regret the dark hour  

When he won, then neglected,  

The frail wildwood flower.  

Until the trap is ready to spring she must put him out of her mind and apply herself to her plan. She will let her hair down and be the life of the party. She will play the lover to every man whom she can charm. Why not? What is there for her to lose now? But this will be an act, not the real desires of her heart. The purpose is to make him jealous. Such young men as he are selfish and possessive. The time will come when he will begin to wonder what he has walked away from and he will eventually take the bait and come back to her. When he does, their meeting place will not be the dance hall but again the wild wood glen where he broke her heart and ruined her life. Her plan will succeed and he will come back, but he will never leave her again. Once she has him in the power of her charms the death hood will engulf him and take his life from him.

4.

He told me he loved me,  

And promis’d to love,  

Trough ill and misfortune,  

All others above,  

Another has won him;  

Ah, misery to tell;  

He left me in silence –

no word of farewell.  

As the girl sits in the wild wood and contemplates her drastic scheme, she begins to rationalize. It is his fault; not hers. He told her loved her and she believed him or she would never have given herself away to him. He spoke of love and lifelong commitment and he was so convincing. He callously took her life and future to fulfill his lust and greed. He shattered her dreams and grand hopes for husband, home, and family, and then walked away without so much as a “goodbye.”

5.

He taught me to love him,  

He call’d me his flower  

That blossom’d for him  

All the brighter each hour;  

But I woke from my dreaming,  

My idol was clay;  

My visions of love  

Have all faded away.  

Clearly an intimate conjugal relationship is indicated here. No girl needs to be “taught” how to have feelings of love and endearment. The sweet intimacy that ought to have belonged to her soul mate alone was given to this deceiver. He told her the things she wanted to hear. “She was what he had always wanted and what he lived for. She was his glorious wildwood flower that kept opening out its blossom bigger and brighter each hour.”

But then the dream vanished in the harsh light of reality. It was all a lie. Her marvelous idol was nothing more that a pile of dirt. He was gone, and with him her hopes for a happy future. He had killed her, and now she had a plot to get even. It was justified; what he had done to her, she would do to him.

Could this frail country girl actually carry out her plan for vengeance? Did her wild scheme have a chance of success? Was she another Frankie with a pistol behind her back?  Who knows? And for the narrative, it does not matter. She is a crushed, jilted, and heartbroken country maid who has been used and cast aside; and she is trying desperately to survive. She seeks to find some satisfaction for the wrong that has been done her. She will make him pay; he has to pay. If in no other way, it has all played out before her in the meadow this day while she sits as she was when she saw him last, twists her raven black hair forcefully around he long white fingers, and seeks consolation in feelings of revenge.

Tirukural, the Great Tamil Classic Defines Human Virtues in 1330 Verses – A Review Using Ten Verses

Tirukural- the Tamil Veda (HOLY BOOK) was written 2000 years back and so its author Saint Tiruvalluvar was a contemporary to Jesus Christ. The contents of Tirukural apply even for modern thinking and education. Kural means any brief verse. The title ‘Tiru’ (or Thiru) is added as a sign of respect to both the verses and the poet. For brevity, it is mentioned in some places as Kural and Valluvar respectively. Tirukural belongs to SANGAM LITERATURE of Tamil language. Tamil Sangam means an association of learned Tamil Scholars of Madurai, the erstwhile capital of PANDYA kingdom where, written works of poets were recognised after great scrutiny and review by eminent Tamil scholars. Tirukural is one such literal work recognised among 18 books by Sangam during the first century B.C. Tirukural has been translated in all major languages of the world. In fact, Rev Father G.U.Pope was impressed greatly by its Latin translation and ventured to translate it in English. He compared the saying of Tiruvalluvar “All the living beings are born equal”(pirappokkum ella uyirkkum) to the teaching in Bible.

There are 1330 verses in toto in 133 chapters of 10 verses each on different topics.

This article deals with what Tiruvalluvar has to say about EDUCATION. The ten verses he has written about education form couplets 391 to 400, i.e. the 40th chapter which falls under the category of Materialism. This is not a word to word translation, but a treatise on the subject how Bliss can be obtained in one birth itself by getting the high value of Education during one’s life time.

1. (Kural 391 onwards): one should learn whatever has to be learnt without any fault. Once such learning is complete, he should live according to the lessons he has already learnt true to the spirit of learning. Perfect learning, devoid of all errors and doubts, is the basis of education. One should be clear about all aspects in the subject chosen. More importantly, there should not be any doubt about the questions that might arise at a later date even after the education is completed. Only such an education could make one fit for higher self. Also, on completion of education, one should never deviate from the path guided by education. Thus such a high value to education, regardless of the chosen field of profession such as medicine, jurisprudence, engineering, and what not!

2. Numbers (which form a part of arithmetical knowledge) and Alphabets (which are the basis of literal knowledge) are to be considered as two eyes for living beings.

3. Only educate people are considered as having Vision. The uneducated do not have ‘eyes’, but have only two punctures in the place of eyes. Without education, the supposed eyes will serve no purpose at all. Is it not true that eyesight is the most important physical property of a human being, only by use of which one can visualise the entire physical Universe? Education is compared to this unique property of the living person through these 2 Kurals

4. Even friendship is given a new definition among those who are well-educated. Their meeting and mutual discussions each time is a matter of great pleasure and joy and when they part with each other there is a great yearning to meet again.

5 An educated person is rich in all aspects because he is in possession of knowledge, when compared to an uneducated person who has to bow with all humility as he is in the lowest cadre of the society.

6. A lot of similes are used to bring home these points. Knowledge is compared with water that springs from muddy land. A water pond will spring water in proportion to the extent it is dug and in the same way knowledge will improve progressively as one learns deeply.

7. For an educated person, every town is his own town and every country is his country. “Then why one is persistently wasting his life until death without education?” Tiruvalluvar wonders.

This Kural can be compared to the saying in another Sangam classic ‘Purananuru’ (four hundred songs depicting social external life): which states:

“All places are my native place, and All men are my kinsmen”

(“yadhum urey, yavarum kelir”-Tamil equivalent)

These words are specially quoted here because these are the most favourite words of learned Tamils. It emphasises the oneness and a universal brotherhood with an exceptional sense of understanding and peaceful co-existence.which existed 2000 years ago.

8. Popular Hindu belief is that one has seven births before reaching salvation. But, the poet asserts that, the education one learns in one birth will suffice for all the seven births. Needless to add, he should learn it without any flaw and to the best of its contents. Such an education will give him pleasure for all the seven births. In other words, perfect education gives one MUKTHI i.e. salvation in the present birth itself. Even if one is a non-believer of subsequent births, he can accept this Kural which assures him permanent peace in one birth itself, provided he is perfectly educated.

9. It is also insisted that the nature of an enlightened person is to derive more pleasure in learning and also to yearn for more knowledge, on seeing that such pleasure he earns through education is shared by the society as a whole. The benefit and pleasure of education is not for the individual alone but collective. The pleasure of others acts as a catalyst to him to empower him for such an accumulation in learning. He does not lose anything by sharing the knowledge with others, and in fact his knowledge and pleasure multiply in due course.

10. It is categorically stated that the only viable wealth, a person can possess is education and other riches are in fact,of no use. No flood, fire, or theft can take away the great wealth of knowledge earned by education.

An introduction has been given to this world-famous epic and if the readers’ interest to learn the entire book has been enkindled, the purpose of this article is served. Needless to add, such readers will attain eternal bliss in this birth itself as enumerated in the above paragraphs.

The Crucible – A Classic Novel About Witch Trials

The Crucible

The word Crucible means pot, which is used for heating a substance or material in order to remove the baser elements. Usually chemists and goldsmiths use this pot in order to obtain precious metals in their pure form. Figuratively, it also signifies the severe system and situation. In this sense the title The Crucible is quite apt and relevant to the play. A title is like the signboard of a shop, as the signboard reveals what is the material available at the shop, similarly a good title helps the reader to judge the themes and concerns of the play.

In a religio-political situation like that depicted in the play, there can be nothing more testing and difficult for a poor illiterate individual. The existing legal system of Salem makes the vengeance awfully easy. A sweeping accusation can throw a person into destruction. Judges, as well as, prosecutors are as superstitious as the people of that area. A shrewd person can easily get rid of his enemies by simply accusing them of witchcraft. An extorted confession is an easy thing. Nobody bothers or investigates that whether the accusation is true or false. So the figurative meaning of Crucible is justified by its crucial story.

The literal meaning of this word is a large pot used by the witches in which they add dirty and obnoxious ingredients of devilish recipe, while boiling, its vapors or steam invokes the evil spirits. In the play we find Abigail with her friends in the woods where they have a kettle in which they are adding ingredients dictated by Tituba, a black servant of Parris. Here we may imply that Salem is symbolically represented as a crucible where we find the development of intrigues, scheming and cheating is at its boiling point. It is the greatest hype of the town.

The most significant explanation of its title is that John Proctor experienced the heat of severe and hard moments, which resulted in to his purgation. While facing the toughest time of his life he emerged as a better and purified individual whose morality somewhat improved.

The course of the events narrates that Abigail on the accusation of being infidel and impure has resigned from her job. This experience embitters her and determines her to take revenge over her insult. She accuses Elizabeth of being involved in witchcraft. The only option left for Proctor is to confess of his adultery with Abigail but in this disclosure his own good name will be at stake. Proctor has to make choice between the two hard possibilities; one is to save his wife and proclaim himself as leacher, while on the other hand leave his wife. Proctor went for the first, but his confession was ironically nullified by her faithful wife. The situation became grim and he was forced by the Reverend to confess that his adultery was a result of witchcraft worked upon him by others. At first Proctor agreed to it but the pricky conscience leave him not so. At last he made up his mind to give up his life as a martyr in the name of his integrity.

Arthur Miller has appropriately named it The Crucible because John Proctor achieved perfection at the end by leaving behind all the vice and shortcomings of his character. In this play there are implications to the political situation of America, as well. It also symbolizes the struggle from which Americans gained democracy out of communism.

The Crucible is a social satire, a criticism on the negative behaviors out of which at last the positivity was born but the things were never easy; people have to give their lives to achieve a prosperity and betterment not only in their characters but also in the society.

The Crucible is a play of sufferings and hardships resulting into improvement, enlightenment and perfection. A man is never entirely good or completely bad. He is a fusion of these two elements. There is an inclination towards evil but with the process of life, a man or even a nation is distilled from the impurities. In the terms of man, Proctor gives away his life to attain a spiritual rest; he left a good name behind him and preferred to die than to live in meanness. The final decision of Proctor is approved of and appreciated by his beloved wife, who saw it as a thing which lacked in his personality will now illuminate him more than ever.

Having examined the title of the play for various angels we conclude that The Crucible is an apt title for the play. It fits the theme and the action.