Poem Analysis,Subject Summarisation And Explanation : 'Asleep In The Valley' by Arthur Rimbaud

The second poem in the Class XII WBCHSE English B syllabus is 'Asleep In The Valley' written by Arthur Rimbaud.
Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud  ; 20 October 1854 – 10 November 1891) was a French poet born in Charleville, Ardennes.He influenced modern literature and arts, and prefigured surrealism. He started writing poems at a very young age, while still in primary school, and stopped completely before he turned 21. He was mostly creative in his teens (17–20). The critic Cecil Arthur Hackett wrote that his "genius, its flowering, explosion and sudden extinction, still astonishes".
Rimbaud was known to have been a libertine and for being a restless soul. He traveled extensively on three continents before his death from cancer just after his thirty-seventh birthday.
The poem carries a sort of oblivion until one discovers the melancholy tune the words sing at the end.Written in the Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet form,'Asleep In The Valley' is a genius work indeed.

(Reminds me so much of 'The Gunner's Dream'.)

Read on to find the complete analysis of the poem.

Asleep In The Valley

(Credit : Source)

A small green valley where a slow stream flows
And leaves long strands of silver on the bright
Grass; from the mountaintop stream the Sun's
Rays; they fill the hollow full of light.

A soldier, very young, lies open-mouthed,
A pillow made of fern beneath his head,
Asleep; stretched in the heavy undergrowth,
Pale in his warm, green, sun-soaked bed.

His feet among the flowers, he sleeps. His smile
Is like an infant's - gentle, without guile.
Ah, Nature, keep him warm; he may catch cold.

The humming insects don't disturb his rest;
He sleeps in sunlight, one hand on his breast;
At peace. In his side there are two red holes.

(Photograph Source)

'Guernica' by Pablo Picasso

Poem Analysis,Summarisation And Explanation

The poem begins with the description of a small and green valley where a slow stream flows beside the mountaintop.The Sun is up and the grass thus looks bright - the entire surrounding is mellowed by the sunlight.The reader is able to clearly visualise the scenario - vivid,transparent and beautiful.
The second stanza opens up the soldier's presence.The soldier is described to be very young and he is asleep in utmost comfort ; with his body stretched in the heavy undergrowth and the fern under his head serving to be his pillow.However,what is a little surprising is against the bright background,his sun-soaked bed,the soldier is described to be pale - even though he is claimed to be young.

The third stanza adds a pretty touch to the environment : the soldier has his feet stretched among the flowers.He is asleep with a smile upon his face which is as innocent as that of an infant.The poet asks nature to keep him warm.
The insects are humming amidst the flowers but that does not disturb the soldier's sleep.He sleeps tranquilised,with one hand upon his breast.The last line brings the horror of death,the futility of war,the fearfulness,the sorrow - all in a go.The soldier had been shot and thus there are two red holes on his side marking his wounds.Rimbaud had served in the Dutch Colonial Army in 1876 and an year later he wrote this poem.

The poem is written in the Petrarchan sonnet form,with two stanzas consisting of four lines each in the octave and two stanzas consisting of three lines each in the sestet.It has got a rhyming scheme of abcb defe ggh iij.

The poem is gentle through out its course until the final touch is added in the last line.It is beautifully written;in a crisp and modern style and is an absolute success from every perspective.

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  1. Great place to acquire knowledge and great place for practice papers @ http://www.kidsfront.com/academics/class.html

  2. It's explanation is awesome...

  3. It's explanation is awesome..

  4. What kind of poem asleep in the valley-satirical or pastoral or lyrical rhetorical?

    1. I'd suggest - it's rhetorical on the most, while it does have a pungent tragic undertone, so you might call it ballad-like, but grammatically, it's not lyrical.

  5. What are the metaphors in this poem?

    1. There's only one metaphor in the whole poem. The poet, throughout the course of the poem, has referred to the soldier being 'asleep'. That his sleep has been ensued by the eternal hymn of death is not understood without realising the twist in the plot depicted symbolically in the last two lines.

  6. What does iambic parameter and a blank verse mean ?

  7. Sir in many places i have seen that this poem was written in 1870 and was published on 1888 it's too much confusing for me to understand that i should go with what to 1876 or 1870 please help with your knowledge thank you

  8. Mam you should have write chest instead of breast in the line"
    he sleeps tranquilized with one hand upon his breast "


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