A Soldier’s Wife Weeps Summary & Analysis

A Soldier’s Wife Weeps Summary & Analysis

Kamala Wijeratne

Last Saturday when you went back from leave
I watched until you disappeared over the bend
And’ long after until my breast gave a great heave
And lit lamp before the Buddha and prayed no end

On Wednesday when the crow cried on the dead branch
And the sky coloured over with the colour of charcoal
I had no fears, I knew you were safe
I had your horoscope read and there was no malefic

But on Thursday when they bore you home
I did not know what to believe what to think
It was as if I had slept a long sleep
And saw things in a haze between life and death

Was it on Saturday we bathed together at the village well
And you boy-like threw stones at the sneering frogs
And drank deeply of the scent of the giant palm
That had ominously broken in splendorous fragrant flower

Looking back now I seem to see things I never saw before
The way you hung behind me and touched my hair
The way you leaned against the door
And watched me as I bustled about

They gave you a hero’s burial
withal military honours
The band played
And your body passed from hand to hand

I saw everything from inside a mist
The drone of voices like a plane
Making its uncertain way through the clouds
I think they spoke of the way of the life and death

I think of the bare, barren years
Stretching like a road swaying through a desert
And wonder how to preoccupy myself
How to make the days go forward

On weekends when I have nothing to do
I spread the white wedding sari on the floor
And contemplate how I stood on the poruwa with you
Shyly tying the piece of cloth around my waist
How wrong the horoscope readers were………………….

VOCABULARY

gave a great heave
malefic
sneering frogs : croaking frogs
ominously:
splendorous:
fragrant:
bustled about :
drone :humming sound
preoccupy:
contemplate:

Details

Subject-matter: weeping of a bereaved wife of a dead soldier

Main Theme: The plight of a bereaved wife of a soldier

Sub-themes: uncertainty of a soldier’s life War brings forth nothing but loss.

SPECIAL CHARACTERISTICS

– traditional beliefs of religion
-starts the poem with a religious ritual
Buddhism preaches nothing for material life but people expect materialistic support and follow traditional customs.

“And lit lamp before the Buddha and prayed no end”

– bad omens
People believe that certain incidents foretell oncoming tragedies.

“the crow cried on the dead branch”
“the sky colored over with the color of charcoal”
“drank deeply of the scent of the giant palm,

That had ominously broken in splendorous fragrant flower”
-astrological predictions
Sinhalese people are in the habit of having the horoscope read when they are uncertain about future.
“I had your horoscope read and there”
“there was no malefic”
“How wrong the horoscope readers were………………….”

-abnormal signs of an oncoming tragedy
People believe that when death is near one may behave in an unusual manner.
-unusual behavior of the soldier
“You boy-like threw stones at the sneering frogs”
“You hung behind me and touched my hair”
“You leaned against the door
and watched me as I bustled about”

TECHNIQUES

MAIN TECHNIQUE

Retrospection [Look back]
Appropriate words and phrases
Symbolism
Addressing:
when you went back from leave
Repetition:
And’ long after ……………………………..
And lit lamp ……………………………………
I had no fears…………………………………..
I had your ……………………………………….

Implications:
sneering frogs: croaking frogs
make the days go forward: make the living
the way of the life and death: uncertainty

Metaphor: drone of voices
Simile: like a plane, like a road swaying through a desert
Alliteration: bare, barren years
Language:the ordinary language with omens

PARAPHRASE

Last Saturday when you went back from leave I watched until you disappeared over the bend and long after until my breast gave a great heave. I lit lamp before the Buddha and prayed endlessly. On Wednesday when the crow cried on the dead branch and the sky coloured over with the colour of charcoal, I had no fears. I knew you were safe as I had
your horoscope read and there was no malefic influence.

But on Thursday when they bore you home, I did not know what to believe or what to think. It was as if I had slept a long sleep and saw things in a haze between life and death. Was it on Saturday we bathed together at the village well? And you threw stones at the croaking frogs a like boy. And we drank deeply of the scent of the splendorous fragrant flower that had ominously bloomed in the giant palm. Looking back now I seem to see things I had never seen before; the way you hung behind me and touched my hair; the way you leaned against the door and watched me as I bustled about.

They gave you a hero’s burial with military honours. The band played and your body passed from hand to hand. I saw everything from inside a mist; the drone of voices likes a plane making its uncertain way through the clouds. I think they spoke of the way of the life and death. I think of the bare, barren future stretching like a road swaying through a desert, and wonder how to make up my mind and how to make my living. At weekends when I have nothing to do I spread the white wedding sari on the floor, and contemplate how I stood on the poruwa with you shyly tying the piece of cloth around my waist. The horoscope readers proved to be wrong.

LITERARY STUDY

The poem implies that the soldier was employed in an operational area which was under terrorism. The first verse describes the day he departed from his wife after his leave was over and the feelings his wife experienced at that emotional moment. When he was leaving she was gazing at him till he disappeared at the junction and after. She was very emotional. She could not bear her husband’s departure as there was some uncertainty of his return.

“My breast gave a great heave.”

Then the poet comes to the religious belief. The wife prays to the Buddha for the safety of her husband’s life. As Buddhists, we have to understand the uncertainty of life and train ourselves to bear all pains with a steady mind. Nevertheless, what she does is, pray to Buddha for the safety of the life of her husband. That is the custom of the Sinhalese folk as a part of their culture.

“The crow cried on the dead branch.”
“The sky colored over the color of charcoal.”

Sinhalese people have their own beliefs, their religion, horoscope reading, omens and suchlike. The above two signs are considered as bad omens in the Sinhalese society. When the solder’s wife saw these bad omens, first she prayed to the Buddha and then she got her husband’s horoscope read as she was afraid that anything dangerous may happen to her
husband at any moment. Then the astrologer had told her that her husband had no malefic conditions in his horoscope. So, she had a solace and could satisfy herself. Sri Lankans have a firm belief in horoscope reading on the ground that when something is predicted it is firm and not doubtable.

She got the horoscope read on Wednesday but, on Thursday, the following day her husband’s dead body was brought home. Then she bewildered what had happened as she was fully confident that her husband was safe after horoscope reading. Then her mind goes back to the past. She recalls how she enjoyed with him when he had come home for the last time. They had a very funny time together. That day they bathed together at the village well. Then he behaved like a mischievous boy. He was very happy and cheerful at that moment. But on that day too, she experienced a bad omen.

“That had ominously broken in splendorous fragrant flower”

The palm flower that had just come out of its sheath giving a sweet smell is also considered as a bad omen. She also remembers how devoted to her he was as a husband. At the same time his behavior implied an unusual thing which was something like a bad omen of an oncoming tragedy.

A soldier when died is given a guard of honor. This soldier also received that honor. And the funeral was done with all the traditional rituals. This implies the reality that when a soldier dies, his last offices are performed ceremonially, but his bereaved wife will be left alone with no attention of anybody.

In spite of the entire honor being done to the soldier, the woman was in an agitated state of mind. She was not fully conscious of her surroundings at the funeral because her husband’s sudden death was a hard stroke to her. Once she looked into the past and enjoyed the sweet memories of the time she had with her husband. Her mind is wholly
preoccupied with nostalgic feelings of the sweet memories of a bygone time. But now she looks into the future with uncertainty. She is not sure how her future will pass without the care and attention of her husband. The poet ends the poem with the saying, “how wrong the horoscope readers were.”

SPECIMEN APPRECIATION

Kamala Wijerathna, in her poem ‘A Soldier’s Wife Weeps’ talks about Sinhalese traditional beliefs rather than bereavement. Justify this statement with proofs.

Kamala Wijerathna’s poem ‘A Soldier’s Wife Weeps’ is based on a bereavement but actually she talks about Sinhalese traditional beliefs rather than a bereavement.

As Sinhalese we have our own beliefs, our religion, horoscope reading, omens and suchlike. Kamala Wijerathna starts the poem with a religious ritual. The wife prays to the Buddha after her husband left for the battlefield. As Buddhists, we have to understand the uncertainty of life and train ourselves to bear all pains with a steady mind. Nevertheless, what she does is, pray to Buddha for the safety of the life of her husband. That is the custom of the Sinhalese folk as a part of their culture.

“Lit the lamp before the Buddha and prayed no end.”

Similarly, she includes several bad omens in the poem. Sinhalese folk believe that such omens foretell oncoming tragedies.

“The crow cried on the dead branch.”
“The sky colored over the color of charcoal.”

The above are some of the signs considered as bad omens in the Sinhalese society. When the soldier’s wife saw these bad omens, first she prayed to the Buddha and then she got her husband’s horoscope read as she was afraid that anything dangerous might happen to her husband at any moment. Then the astrologer had told her that her husband had no malefic influences in his horoscope. So, she had solace and could satisfy herself. Sri Lankans have a firm belief in horoscope reading on the ground that when something is predicted it is firm and undoubtable. The soldier’s wife got the horoscope read on Wednesday but the following day her husband’s dead body was brought home. Then she bewildered what had happened as she was fully confident that her husband was safe after horoscope reading.

“I had your horoscope read”
and there was no malefic”

The poet ends the poem with the saying, “how wrong the horoscope readers were.” Furthermore, there is a mention about abnormal signs of an oncoming tragedy. People believe that when death is near one may behave in an unusual manner. After her husband’s death her mind goes back to the past. She recalls how she enjoyed with her husband when he had come home for the last time. That day they bathed together at the village well. Then he behaved like a mischievous boy. He was very happy and cheerful at that moment. But on that day too, she experienced a bad omen.

“…………That had ominously broken in splendorous fragrant flower”

The palm flower or thala mala giving a sweet smell is also considered as extremely ominous. At the same time his behavior also implied something unusual like a bad sign of an oncoming tragedy.

In keeping with the facts so far elucidated, it is clear that Kamala Wijerathna, in her poem ‘A Soldier’s Wife Weeps’ talks about Sinhalese traditional beliefs rather than bereavement.

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