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ICSE Class 10 After Blenheim Summary
Students should refer to the summary provided below for After Blenheim, this is an important chapter in ICSE Class 10 English book. You can refer to all Treasure Trove Poem Summary provided on our website. These have been prepared based on the latest books and syllabus issued by ICSE.
After Blenheim Summary Treasure Trove and Questions
‘After Blenheim’ is an anti-war poem written by English Romantic poet laureate Robert Southey in 1796. It is in the form of a ballad. The poem is set at the site of the Battle of Blenheim (1704) with the questions of two small children about a skull one of them has found. Their grandfather an old man, tells them about the horrors of that war while repeatedly calling it ‘a famous victory’. The poem also depicts the common man’s ignorance of the motives of war and his complacency regarding the outcome of war.
Robert Southey was born in the year 1774. While he was in the school at Westminster, he was expelled from the school for writing an article against flogging. Then, he went to Balliol, a college in Oxford. There he met S.T. Coleridge. Later, he went to Spain where his uncle was a clergyman. In 1808, his translation of the Chronicles of C.I.T. made him very popular. Southey wrote long heroic epics – Thala the Destroyer, Madoc, The curse of Kehana’. In addition to his epic poems, he wrote histories, biographies and essays. He wrote short pieces also like Inch Cape Rock, My days Among the Dead are past, The Battle of Blenheim and the Scholar. He wrote some fables also for children.
The Poem in Detail…
The first stanza sets the tone and atmosphere for narration and reflection. It is a summer evening and the place is the cottage of an elderly farmer Caspar, who is sitting in front of his cottage and watching his grandchildren play.
Stanza– 2, 3, 4:
Wilhelmine sees her brother Peterkin find a round object near a stream. They take it to their grandfather to ask about the object. The old farmer had found many such objects while plugging the fields. He tells them about those skulls. He tells them that many thousands were killed in the battle that was known for its victory.
Young Peterkin asks his grandfather to tell him the purpose of the war, while the little Wilhelmine looks up at her grandfather with anticipation.
Stanza – 6:
Kaspar replies that the English defeated the French. But he is unable to tell the purpose of war, why they fought. He can only tell them that it was a great victory.
Stanza – 7:
While narrating the old history Kaspar tells the children that his father lived at Blenheim. Soldiers burnt Kaspar’s father’s house and the poor man had to leave the place with his wife and child. Thus, he lost his home and everything else with it.
Stanza – 8:
The war itself was terrible. Fire and weapons had destroyed everything, many pregnant mothers and new born babies died. Such things Kaspar says take place at every battle where there is a great victory. (Here Kaspar speaks ironically).
Stanza – 9, 10, 11:
Those who were witness to the scene of massacre said that it was a shocking sight after the battle was won. Thousands of bodies lay there rotting in the sun. Kaspar says in a philosophic way that it was but natural and such things must happen after such a great victory.
Kaspar says that the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Engene were greatly praised for the victory. His granddaughter wilhelmine said that it was a very wicked thing. Kaspar replied ironically that it was a famous victory.
Peterkin, Kaspar’s grandson asks what good came out of the war. Kaspar replies that he cannot answer the question because he himself does not know. He can only say that it was a great and famous victory.
The theme of the poem is based on the futility of war, man’s cruelty to man and overall destruction. Nothing is achieved. The poem implies that the ambitious leaders, politicians or dictators provoke wars and the common innocent public and soldiers must suffer.
Another theme of the poem is the complacency of common man who is not interested to find out the cause of war. Only children like Peterkin and Wilhelmine are curious to know the cause of war and to achievement. Kaspar, their grandfather it complacent. He does not know the cause of war and takes all those thousands of deaths for granted. In truth, this innocent complacency is as dangerous as the greed of those who perpetrate wars
i. Form and Structure:
The poem ‘After Blenheim’ is written in the form of a ballad. It is an anti-war poem and through an old man Kaspar, whose father had to leave all his possessions and leave the place only with his wife and son to save their lives. It is a long narrative poem presenting the story of Kaspar and his two little grand children who are engaged in a conversation about the famous battle in the war of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). This battle of Blenheim was fought in 1704. Each stanza of this ballad contains six lines and the meter is Lambic tetrameter.
When a phrase, verse or group of verses is repeated at intervals throughout the poem, the device is called Refrain. The poet has continuously repeated the phrase, ‘the great victory’ and ‘a famous victory’ with little variations. It emphasizes the ignorance and complacency of common man.
The end rhyme in each stanza except in the second is a b c b d d. In the second stanza the end rhyme is a b c d dd.
Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sound.
(a) Roll some large and round.
(b) And what they fought each other for.
All the end of almost each stanza, there is the repetition of an idea of great victory, how the English defeated the French.
Kaspar’s description of the great victory achieved at the cost of thousands of lives and pointless destruction creates a sense of irony as the speaker, although his family also suffered, repeats the phrase ‘great victory’ and casually tells about the rotting corpses.
It is also ironical how masses believe their leaders without reflecting on the purpose or benefits of war for a common man because it is the common men who suffer most.
• Blenheim – Blenheim is village situated near Bavaria in Germany. There in 1704, Duke of Marlborough joined Prince Engene’s Forces and defeated the French and the Bavarians
• Sported – played, rivulet – small stream,
• Expectant – expecting or hoping for something to happen,
• rout – defeat, ploughshare – blade of a plough,
• slain – killed,
• wonder-wailing – expecting to see and hear exciting things.
• quoth – said, yon – beyond,
• hard by – very near,
• dwelling – house or building,
• fly – run away wasted far and wide – great destruction and devastation.
• Childing mothers – pregnant woman.
• the field was won – the battle was won.
• Duke of Marlborough – He was English General Commander of British Forces in the war of Spanish Succession (1701-1714)
• Prince Engene: Austrian General, born in France. With Duke of Marlborough, he defeated the French at Blenheim.
• Nay – No
(1) Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:
And by him sported on the green
His little grandchild Wilhelmine
She saw her brother Peterkin
Roll something large and round
Which he beside the rivulet
In playing there had found
He came to ask what he had found
That was so large and smooth and round.
1. Whom does the word ‘him’ refer to? Who are Wilhelmine and Peterkin?
A1. The word ‘him’ refers to the old man Kaspar. Wilhelmine and Peterkin are his grandchildren.
2. What was this person doing? Where is he?
A2. He is sitting in front of his cottage after finishing his day’s work. His cottage is situated in Blenheim, a village in Bavaria.
3. What was Peterkin doing and what did he find?
A3. Peterkin was playing on the ground and he found a big round object which was a skull.
4. Whom does he show this skull and what does that person tell him?
A4. Peterkin shows the ‘round big object’ to his grandfather Kaspar who was sitting nearby. Kaspar tells him that it was a skull. There were many such skulls buried in the fields, which came out from time to time.
5. Why were such objects found there?
A5. Kaspar tells his grandchildren that at Blenheim, a terrible battle was fought, in which the French were defeated. There, thousands of men died and were left there rotting. That’s why, skulls are still found, although it was a great victory.
(2) Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:
Old Caspar took it from the boy,
Who stood expectant by,
And the n the old man shook his head,
And, with a natural sigh,
“Tis some poor fellow’s skull”, said he,
“who fell in the great victory”.
“I find them in garden”,
For there’s many here about;
And often when I go to plough,
The ploughshare turns them out;
“For many Thousand men”, said he
“Were slain in the great victory”.
1. Who is the boy and why is he standing expectantly?
A1. The boy is Peterkin and is Kaspar’s grandson. He is standing expectantly because with his natural inborn curiosity of a young child, he wants to know about the round, big and heavy object, which he has found while playing.
2. Why did the old man shake his head and spoke with a natural sigh? What was the object?
A2. It was a natural sigh because Kaspar remembers that it was the skull of some soldier killed in the battle at Blenheim. The object was a skull.
3. How common were the skulls there? At which place many of them could be found?
A3. The skulls were common there because it was the place where thousands of men were butchered and killed and their Corpses were left rotting. It was a common place for the finding of skulls. The place was a village named Blenheim where ironically the famous victory was achieved at the cost of the thousands of lives.
4. What did Kaspar say in reply to his grandson’s question? What else did he tell?
A4. Kaspar told his son that it was the skull of a man killed in the battle of Blenheim. He said that he had been finding these skulls for a long time.
5. What does the tone of Kaspar’s words suggest?
A5. It is evident from the tone of Kaspar’s words that he is not upset about the death of thousands in the battle; rather the only thing that concerned him was that it was a great victory.
6. Who was responsible for the victory referred here?
A6. The Duke of Marlborough of England and Prince Ugene of Austria were responsible for this great victory.
(3) Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:
“Now tell us what ’twas all about”
Young Peterkin he cries;
And little Wilhelmine looks up
With wonder waiting eyes;
Now tell us all about the war,
And what they fought each other for;
“It was the English”, Kaspar cried
Who put the French to rout;
But what they fought each other for;
I could not well make out;
“But everybody said quoth he,
That ‘twas a famous victory”.
1. What is meant by “wonder waiting eyes”? Explain, which figure of speech is used there?
A1. Children are by nature curious. Wilhelmine is looking up with wonder-waiting eyes because she expects to hear something new and exciting. The figure of speech is alliteration.
2. Who fought the battle? Was Peterkin given a satisfactory reply? What does the reply show about a common man’s attitude towards war?
A2. The English fought against the French. Peterkin was not given a satisfactory answer. He was told about the participants of war but not the reason. It shows a common man’s ignorance and complacency.
3. What had happened to Kaspar’s family during the battle?
A3. His father’s house was burnt by the invading forces and he had to leave his house and the city with his wife and child to save their lives.
4. What is meant by ‘was wasted far and wide’?
A4. ‘Wasted far and wide’ means that there was destruction all around. Everything in the village was burnt down and destroyed and thousands of men were brutally butchered.
5. Name the two opposite sides. Who won?
A5. The battle was fought between the French and the English. The English won.
6. Why, does Kaspar repeat ‘it was a famous victory’?
A6. Kaspar’s attitude is symbolic of common man’s attitude. Common men are misguided by those who lead the country. He himself repeats the phrase because he genuinely believes that it was a great victory. As far as the killing of thousands of men is concerned, he is complacent and believes that it is common for men to die in war. Only victory or defeat counts.
(4) Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:
With fire and sword, the country round
War wasted far and wide,
And many a childing mother then
And new-born baby died,
But things like that, you know, must be
At every famous victory.
1. Which country is referred to in the extract?
A1. Here the country referred to is France.
2. What is meant by ‘wasted far and wide’?
A2. Kaspar tells his grandchildren that the entire countryside was ravaged and destroyed. People were killed and their houses burnt to the ground.
3. What does the narrator say about the effects of the battle on his own family?
A3. He tells his grandchildren that because of that battle, his father had to leave Blenheim and go to some other place with his wife and son. He had to leave everything behind.
4. What is meant by ‘childing mother’? Why do you think the poet specifically points out that “many a childing mother……. new born babies died”.
A4. ‘A childing mother’ means a pregnant woman.
The poet specifically points out the deaths of ‘a childing mother and new born babies’ to stress upon the pointlessness and horrors of war and the need to avoid it.
5. Describe in your words Kaspar’s attitude as depicted in the poem.
A5. Kaspar describes the horrors of war and although his own family also suffered in the battle of Blenheim, he does not seem too much concerned about those thousands of people who were killed. His attitude is of complacency. To him it seems war and its after effects both are unavoidable. He does not understand why the battle was fought and it was not even curious to find out the reasons. He only knows that it was a magnificent victory and that is enough for him.
(5) Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:
They say it was a shocking sight
After the field was won
For many thousand bodies here
Lay rotting in the sun
But things like that you know must be
After a famous victory.
“Great praise the Duke of Marlbro’ won
And our good Prince Engene”
“Why, ‘twas a very wicked thing”
Said little Wilhelmine.
“Nay… nay…. my little girl”, quoth he,
“It was a famous victory.
“And everybody praised the Duke
Who this great fight did win”.
“But what good came of it at last?”
Quoth little Peterkin,
“Why that I cannot tell”, said he,
“But ‘twas a great victory”.
1. To whom does ‘they’ in the extract refer?
A1. ‘They’ in the extract refers to the people who told the story of war.
2. Why do you think the sight was shocking, even when the battle was won?
A2. Although the battle was won, but so many thousands were killed and dead bodies lay rotting and such destruction all over was shocking.
3. What was the occupation of the speaker of these lines? How do you know about his occupation?
A3. The speaker of these lines is old Kaspar, who is a farmer. In the beginning of the poem, he says “When I go to plough, the ploughshare turns them (skulls) out”. These lines tell that he is a farmer.
4. Who was the Duke of Marlbro’? Why did he win great praise?
A4. ‘Duke of Marlbro’ was the commander of British forces in the war of the Spanish succession (1701-1714). He won great praise because he defeated the French forces with the collaboration of Austrian forces.
5. Who was prince Engene? Why does the poet refer to him as ‘our good Prince Engene’?
A5. Prince Engene was the Austrian General born in France. With Marlborough, he could defeat the French at Blenheim. He is called ‘our good Prince Engene’ because he won the war and the victorious are always hailed.
6. What ‘thing’ according to Wilhelmine was wicked? Do you agree with her comment? Give reasons to support your answer.
A6. According to Wilhelmine that ‘thing’ was wicked. Here the ‘thing’ refers to the battle and the killings of men and destruction, it did. Yes, I agree with her comment. It shows the uselessness and pointlessness of war. It is wicked
because war makes no one happy except a few heartless war mongers. In war, the defeated and the victorious, both suffer. It is living hell for both. That’s why Wilhelmine’s comment is to be agreed with.
7. State briefly the moral of the poem ‘After Blenheim’.
A7. ‘After Blenheim’ is undoubtedly an anti-war poem. Very ingenuously the poet has brought out the horrors of war, tendency of common man and overall effect of both without moralizing anything himself. The poet wishes the common men to realize the truth of war and try to avoid it by becoming advocates of peace and friendship. He has succeeded in bringing out the morals of peace, friendship and compassion by using the irony and simple innocent words of Kaspar’s small grandchildren
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