Read the extracts given below and answer the questions that follow.
Question 1 : Who was the old man? Who all were there? Where were they?
Answer : The old man was the grandfather of the children. He was the narrator of the war that took place in 1704 and was fought between the English and French. He was sitting before his cottage while his granddaughter Wilhelmine was playing on the grass and his grandson Peterkin was playing near the stream that was somewhere near his cottage.
Question 2 : Do you feel that Kaspar was in good mood? How?
Answer : Yes, Kaspar was certainly in good mood as he had finished his work and at the time he was sitting in front of the door of his cottage, the sun was going to set so it was not too hot. The surrounding were full of trees and grass. Apart from all these things his granddaughter Wilhelmine was playing before him. Hence, he had every reason to be happy and cheerful.
Question 3 : What according to you is atmosphere like around Kaspar’s home?
Answer : As the stanza stars with ‘summer evening’, it indicates that the place is illuminated with pleasant full light. The green is the symbol of greenery and vegetation that enhance the beauty of the surroundings. The place is situated next to a river that brings more charm to the place.
Question 4 : Who had found smooth round thing? What was it actually?
Answer : Kaspar’s grandson Peterkin had found a smooth and round object while playing. Actually it was a skull. It must be one of the soldiers who had died during the battle. Their bodies were left in the open to smell and decay.
Question 5 : Where was the round thing found? Why did the speaker say that it was of some poor fellow?
Answer : The skull was found near the stream that was running near the field. The speaker feels pity and says that it was the skull of a poor fellow who must have died in the battle. During the battle thousands of people lost their lives. The skull can be a soldier or a peasant.
Question 1 : Who took the skull? What did he know about it?
Answer : Old Kaspar took the skull from his grandson, Peterkin who had come to ask about the round strong thing. The skull was large and round. It was found near the stream where many decades ago a battle took place between the English and the French to according to him the skull was either of a soldier or a civilian who would have lost his life in the battle.
Question 2 : Why did the body stand expectant by?
Answer : Little Peterkin wanted to know about the large and round object that he found while playing near the river. When his grandfather took the skull, he understood that he was about to be told what that object was so he stood expectant by him.
Question 3 : What does ‘with a natural sigh’ imply?
Answer : ‘With a natural sigh’ implies that he was not pretending it. It came involuntarily. It shows that the finding of the skull by Peterkin was not a surprise for him because he had been witnessing such skulls ever since he started ploughing fields.
Question 4 : Who had witnessed the Battle of Blenheim? What, did he tell his grandchildren about the skull?
Answer : Old Kaspar had witnessed the Battle of Blenheim. He told his grandchildren that the skull was of some soldier or peasant who had lost his life during the battle. The old man took pity on thousands of soldiers who had lost their lives in the battle and their dead bodies were left there to deacy.
Question 5 : What did Kaspar mean by great victory?
Answer : When Kaspar mentioned great victory, he meant that the war was won by his country England. He did not know whether it was a great victory or not. The only thing that he knew about the war was that the English came victorious and it was sufficient reason for him to call this victory a great victory.
Question 1 : How common were the skulls there? What impression does the skull make on the grandchildren of Kaspar?
Answer : The skulls were a common sight in the ground near the Old Kaspar’s cottage, where the battle of Blenheim was fought. The skull which was found by Kaspar’s grandson has generated curiosity and excitement which arouse (excited) a question mark in his mind.
Question 2 : What was the profession of the old man? How do you know it?
Answer : Old Kaspar was a farmer as he told that while ploughing his field, he had found many such skulls unearthed by his ploughshare. Moreover, his cottage was situated near a river, an ideal sight for farming as he could get plenty of water from the river for irrigation.
Question 3 : Whom did Kaspar refer by ‘many thousand men’?
Answer : Kaspar was telling his grandkids Wilhelmine and Peterkin about the skull, from where it came. He told them that thousands of such skulls were around and under the field near by. These skulls were of the men who were killed during the war and their dead bodies were left to rot in the open.
Question 4 : What promoted the old man to give an account of the Battle of Blenheim?
Answer : Finding of a skull of Kaspar’s grandson Peterkin and repeated requests by both the grandchildren prompted Kaspar to give an account of the Battle of Blenheim. The children had a number of questions regarding the war like why was it fought and by whom etc. Kaspar was forced to give them all the details regarding the war.
Question 5 : What refrain has been used by the poet? What effect does the refrain have on the reader? What do you think is the poet’s attitude towards war?
Answer : The refrain used by the poet is ‘it was a famous victory’ is ironical as the victory resulted by loss of so many lives and properties. Though he knows what war can do, as a common man he has been taught to glorify war, so he continues to do so. The poet is quite satirical about war and puts before the readers the repercussion of a battle in which hundreds of innocent lives are lost and there is widespread destruction.
Question 1 : Who are Peterkin and Wilhelmine? How does the poet describe the scene at the beginning of the poem?
Answer : Peterkin and Wilhelmine are grandchildren of Kaspar, the person who was a victim of the Battle of Blenheim. The poet describes the scene at the beginning of the poem as Kaspar sitting in the sun outside his cottage on a summer evening. His granddaughter Wilhelmine was playing on the grass near him. She was watching her brother rolling something round and round which he had found in playing near a stream flowing nearby.
Question 2 : What did Young Peterkin find and where? Describe it.
Answer : Young Peterkin had found the skull of a soldier who was killed in the Battle of Blenheim. It was large, smooth and round. The skull was in the fields near a stream where Peterkin had been playing.
Question 3 : Who is referred to as ‘each other’? What did they fight for?
Answer : The allied army led by the English fought the battle against the French army. They are referred to as “each other”. However, Kaspar did not what they fought each other for.
Question 4 : To whom are the words in the extract addressed? How was this person’s family affected by the war?
Answer : The words in the extract are addressed to Kaspar, the grandfather of the children. His family was much affected by the war as his father’s house was burnt down. Thus, the father was forced to run away from there with his wife and child. Kaspar was that child. They were thus rendered homeless.
Question 5 : What, according to the poet, are the consequences that are often associated with great and famous victories? What message does the poet want to convey to the readers?
Answer : According to the poet, the consequences often associated with great and famous victories are horrifying, as many soldiers lose their lives in battle. The message that the poet wants to convey to the readers is that war is condemned because many lives are lost in it. Instead, it is a defeat of innocence, human dignity and humanity.
Question 1 : What information do we get about Kaspar’s father? What happened to him during the war?
Answer : Kaspar told his grandchildren that his father had a house at Belnheim, near a small stream. The enemy soldiers burnt down his father’s house. As a result he was forced to run from the place to save his life. He took his wife and small child to another place but he did not get any place to hide himself.
Question 2 : Who are affected most by the war?
Answer : The war was fought between the English and the French. During the war thousands of people were killed and many more became homeless. The war affected the civilians the most as they had to lose their loved ones, their lands and their homes of no faults of theirs. They had to flee to save their lives.
Question 3 : How was the country affected by the war? What are your feelings for the speaker?
Answer : The country was ruined by the forces. The war had devasted everything. Thousands of corps lay rotting in the fields. I feel pity for the speaker as he sighed at the sight of a poor fellow’s skull but his conditioning was such, that he justified war.
Question 4 : What is meant by ‘Childing Mother’? Why does the poet specifically mentions death of childing mother and new born babies?
Answer : ‘Childing Mother’ means expectant or pregnant women expecting a baby. The poet specifically mentions these to show the horrible consequences of war which do not spare the lives of new born babies or expecting mothers. The war is heartless, miserable and brings suffering to the innocent people.
Question 5 : Is it wise on part of Kaspar to call the Battle of Blenheim ‘a great victory or famous victory’?
Answer : No, it is not at all wise on part of Kaspar to call it a great victory. The war involved huge devastation of lost life. Soldiers were killed and their bodies were left to rot in open field. It is totally inhuman. Kaspar is not right in calling this battle ‘a great victory’. He does not even know why it was a great victory. The repetition of the line ‘a great victory’ at the end of every stanza is only to emphasize the fact or the poet’s message that war is not good for humanity. It can not be great, it can do no good.
Question 1 : What was the shocking sight? Why did it happen?
Answer : The shocking sight referred to thousands of bodies which were left in the open to deacy. They simply got rotten. How inhuman must be that sight as the Battle of Blenheim progressed, there was large scale casualties of soldiers and the French were defeated in this battle. Then dead bodies were left to smell so this was a shocking sight.
Question 2 : What do you think of the old man’s point of view?
Answer : The old man’s point of view represents the common man’s perception of war. They praise victory but are unconcerned about the effects to a war has on people and place. They think that terrible consequences are part of war, what matters is ultimate victory. He accepts the loss of lives of innocent people.
Question 3 : How the poet mocks on war through Kaspar by calling this battle ‘ a great victory’?
Answer : The poet is here condemning war and through Kaspar he calls it a great victory satirically. How can a victory be great when it incurs mass destruction, displacement of innocent civilian and large scale dead people lying in the open. Kaspar is not at all justified in calling this battle a great victory. He just holds a common man’s perception to call it great.
Question 4 : “But things like that”, what do these words show about old man’s perception of war?
Answer : Kaspar represents the large number of common people who are unaware of the horrible realities of war. They believe that war is all about heroism and patriotism and it is a great victory. Kaspar’s views are perhaps not his own. These views have been explained by the warmongers (political leader).
Question 5 : What is most tragic about the war hinted here?
Answer : The most tragic impact of war that is hinted here is the destruction , horror and ruin faced by the innocent civilian population. From the description given by Kaspar, it is clear that war inflicts misery on innocent people. They were displaced from their house, they had to flee to save their lives and family and restart life at a new place. There were death, blood and misery, a sorrowful condition of once clam and happy place.
Question 1 : Who was Duke of Marlbro? Why did he win so much praise? Who else has been glorified here?
Answer : Both Duke of Marlbro and Prince Eugene have been glorified in the poem. Duke of Marlbro was English Captain General who led the English army to the victory. In the Battle of Blenheim, Eugene joined hands with Duke of Marlbro to make the Grand alliance against the French army. They both received great praise for the victory of Blenheim.
Question 2 : Why were the Duke and the Prince praised instead of the soldiers who lost their lives?
Answer : The Duke and the Prince Eugene led the army of England that defeated the French. They were the people who executed the plans and strategies. They guided the army. Because of their strategies and guidance the war could be won so they were hailed as the heroes of the war. The sacrifice of the soldiers who had lost their lives had become secondary.
Question 3 : Why does Wilhelmine call this war a wicked thing? Do you agree with it?
Answer : I agree with Wilhelmine in calling war a wicked thing. War shows man’s inhumanity to man. The skull Peterkin finds and those skulls which Kaspar regularly finds while ploughing, are mute indication of the fact that war is totally inhuman and undignified. Wilhelmine is correct in calling war a wicked thing.
Question 4 : Do you think Wilhelmine is a rational child? Elaborate.
Answer : Wilhelmine is shocked to hear inhuman nature of the war were man killed man burnt each-other’s habitates even innocent woman and children had to lose their lives. She seems to know that in civilised world everybody has the right to live, killing people is unlawful and an inhuman work. Thus, her calling the war wicked shows that she is a rational child.
Question 5 : Why does Kaspar counter Wilhelmine’s statement?
Answer : Since his childhood Kaspar has been hearing that it was a famous victory. He does not brother of about its consequences. He seems to have accepted whatever happens in the war, is common. So, when Wilhelmine says the war was wicked thing, he counters her saying that it was a famous victory and it was more important than the lives of people who are killed. Thus, he wants to think the same as he does.
Extract – VIII
‘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 famous victory.’
Question 1 : What impression do you draw about little Peterkin from his question?
Answer : Peterkin has been listening about the war patiently. Finally, he asks what good came out of it as so many people lost their lives and homes but no positive result was mentioned. His question shows that he is quite anxious by the end of the war when only two people were praised for their leadership while no actual good came in to people’s lives except it was a famous victory for them. Thus, Peterkin seems to be a thoughtful child.
Question 2 : Why did Grandfather not answer Peterkin when he asked ‘what good came out of the battle of Blenheim’?
Answer : Kaspar’s perhaps was focusing more on the great victory instead of evaluating the losses that the people suffered during the war. But he was not able to answer Peterkin’s question as he was not even aware of the reason the French and the English army were fighting about.
Question 3 : What has inspired Kaspar to repeat his statement of ‘famous victory’?
Answer : Kaspar seems to be ignoring the answers of the questions asked by his grandchildren. It seemed that Kaspar does not know the actual reason of war. Though he knows what war can do, as a common man he has been taught to glorify war, so he continues to do so. He does not want to create a bad impression about war. Hence, he repeats his statement of ‘famous victory’ so that the children’s attention can be moved towards the positive impact of the war.
Question 4 : Was the Battle of Blenheim really a ‘great victory’ at all as presented in Robert Southey’s poem ‘After Blenheim’?
Answer : The poem ironically mocks at Kaspar’s belief of a famous and great victory at the end of the battle. The battle had caused a lot of destruction and loss of lives. But what had the common people gained from the war, absolutely nothing, it had been an ultimate loss and defeat of humanity and innocence. That’s why the little children Peterkin and Wilhelmine found no reason to call this battle ‘a great victory’.
Question 5 : What is the moral of the poem ‘After Blenheim’?
Answer : The moral of the poem is that it appears to avoid wars at any cost as they bring death and destruction.
“What do we earn when everything is lost?”. There is nothing great about victory as people were left to die in the most undignified ways. Thousands of people were forced to flee from their country and countless mothers and babies lost their lives. So, through these description poet brings out the ugliness of war and teaches us not to indulge (devolve) in war at all.