A Photograph Poem Notes for CBSE class 11 English Core students: The poetry notes contain a summary, stanza and line by line explanation and analysis of the poem ‘A Photograph’ published in the book ‘Hornbill’ Class XI.
❓ Still have doubts🤔questions ➡ click to Contact Us
- Poem ‘A Photograph’
- Word Meanings of the Poem ‘A Photograph’
- Line by Line Stanza Explanation
- Critical Analysis of Poem “A Photograph”
- Tone of the Poem “A Photograph”
- Theme of “A Photograph”
- Central Idea of “A Photograph”
Poem ‘A Photograph’ by Shirley Toulson
The cardboard shows me how it was
When the two girl cousins went paddling,
Each one holding one of my mother’s hands,
And she the big girl — some twelve years or so.
All three stood still to smile through their hair
At the uncle with the camera. A sweet face,
My mother’s, that was before I was born.
And the sea, which appears to have changed less,
Washed their terribly transient feet.
Some twenty — thirty — years later
She’d laugh at the snapshot. “See Betty
And Dolly,” she’d say, “and look how they
Dressed us for the beach.” The sea holiday
Was her past, mine is her laughter. Both wry
With the laboured ease of loss.
Now she’s been dead nearly as many yearsShirley Toulson
As that girl lived. And of this circumstance
There is nothing to say at all.
Its silence silences.
Word Meanings of the Poem ‘A Photograph’
The meanings given here are explained in the context of the poem “A Photograph” by Shirley Toulson. Literal meanings may differ from their contextual and figurative meanings.
- Cardboard: Refers to a material often used to store or transport photographs. In the poem, the cardboard represents the physical photograph that the speaker is looking at.
- Paddling: Refers to the act of wading in shallow water, usually in a playful or leisurely manner.
- Cousins: Refers to the children of one’s aunt or uncle.
- Transient: Refers to something that is temporary or short-lived.
- Snapshot: Refers to a quick photograph taken with a camera.
- Laboured ease of loss: This phrase refers to the bittersweet feeling of remembering a past that is gone forever, which is both difficult to accept and yet somehow comforting in its familiarity.
- Sea holiday: Refers to a vacation or trip to the seaside.
- Laughter: In the context of the poem, laughter represents the speaker’s way of dealing with the pain of loss and the memory of their mother.
- Wry: Refers to a sense of humour that is dry, ironic, or slightly sarcastic.
- Silence silences: This phrase suggests that the speaker is at a loss for words when it comes to describing the loss of their mother. The silence is so overwhelming that it creates its own sense of emptiness.
The poem “A Photograph” by Shirley Toulson reflects on the transient nature of time and the way in which a photograph can capture a moment in time, preserving memories that are forever lost in reality.
The poem describes an old photograph that shows two young girl cousins paddling in the sea, each holding one of the poet’s mother’s hands, with her mother standing tall and holding them. The photograph captures a sweet moment of joy and playfulness, with the three of them smiling through their hair at the uncle who took the picture.
The poem then fast-forwards in time, as the poet’s mother, now older, looks back on the snapshot and remembers the holiday, the beach, and the clothes they wore. The memory of the holiday becomes her past, and the poet’s memory of her mother’s laughter becomes her own past.
The last stanza of the poem deals with the poet’s mother’s death, which occurred many years after the photograph was taken. The final line “Its silence silences” suggests that the poet has nothing more to say about her mother’s death or the photograph, as they are both events that have passed beyond the realm of language and memory.
Overall, the poem seeks reflection on the transience of time, memory, and life, and how photographs can serve as a powerful reminder of what once was, even as they remind us of the loss that comes with the passage of time.
Summary of the Poem ‘A Photograph’
“A Photograph” by Shirley Toulson is a moving reflection on the transience of human life and the power of photography to capture moments that become treasured memories. The poem describes a photograph of the poet’s mother and her two girl cousins at the beach when they were young. The image portrays the girls holding hands, smiling, and standing in the sea with their feet submerged. The poet’s mother is the eldest of the three and has a sweet face. The sea, in contrast, appears unchanged.
The poet then describes how her mother, many years later, would laugh at the photograph and reminisce about the day, noting how they were dressed for the beach. The sea holiday was her past, and the poet’s past is her mother’s laughter. Both are characterized by a wry sense of loss.
The final stanza reveals that the poet’s mother has been dead for almost as many years as she had lived when the photograph was taken. The silence surrounding her death is palpable and all-encompassing. The poem ends on a somber note, emphasizing the finality of death and the silence it leaves behind.
Summary in Hindi
शर्ली टोलसन द्वारा लिखित “ए फोटोग्राफ” मानव जीवन की विविधता और उन क्षणों को पकड़ने के लिए फोटोग्राफी की शक्ति पर एक गतिशील प्रतिबिंब है जो क़ीमती यादें बन जाते हैं। कविता कवि की मां और उसकी दो चचेरी बहनों की समुद्र तट पर एक तस्वीर का वर्णन करती है जब वे युवा थे। तस्वीर में लड़कियों को हाथ पकड़े, मुस्कुराते हुए और अपने पैरों को डुबोकर समुद्र में खड़े दिखाया गया है। कवि की मां तीनों में सबसे बड़ी हैं और उनका चेहरा मीठा है। इसके विपरीत, समुद्र अपरिवर्तित दिखाई देता है।
कवि तब वर्णन करता है कि कैसे उसकी मां, कई साल बाद, तस्वीर पर हंसती थी और उस दिन के बारे में याद करती थी, यह देखते हुए कि वे समुद्र तट के लिए कैसे कपड़े पहनते थे। समुद्र की छुट्टी उसका अतीत था, और कवि का अतीत उसकी मां की हंसी है। दोनों को नुकसान की एक अजीब भावना की विशेषता है।
अंतिम श्लोक से पता चलता है कि कवि की मां लगभग उतने ही वर्षों से मर चुकी है जितना वह तस्वीर लेने के समय जीवित थी। उनकी मृत्यु के आसपास की चुप्पी स्पष्ट और सर्वव्यापी है। कविता एक उदास नोट पर समाप्त होती है, जिसमें मृत्यु की अंतिमता और उसके पीछे छोड़ी गई चुप्पी पर जोर दिया जाता है।
Line by Line Stanza Explanations of “A Photograph” Poem
“The cardboard shows me how it was” – The speaker is referring to an old photograph that is printed on cardboard, which captures a particular moment in time.
“When the two girl cousins went paddling, each one holding one of my mother’s hands” – The photograph shows two girl cousins and the speaker’s mother walking in the sea with each girl holding one of the mother’s hands.
“And she the big girl — some twelve years or so” – The speaker’s mother was older than the two girl cousins by about twelve years.
“All three stood still to smile through their hair at the uncle with the camera” – The three girls, including the speaker’s mother, posed for the camera and smiled while their hair blew in the wind.
“A sweet face, my mother’s, that was before I was born” – The speaker’s mother had a sweet and youthful face in the photograph, which was taken before the speaker was born.
“And the sea, which appears to have changed less, washed their terribly transient feet” – The sea is described as having changed less than the people in the photograph. It washed their feet which are described as transient, meaning fleeting and temporary.
“Some twenty — thirty — years later she’d laugh at the snapshot” – The speaker’s mother later laughed at the photograph when it was taken years later, recalling memories of the day.
“See Betty and Dolly,” she’d say, “and look how they dressed us for the beach.” – The speaker’s mother comments on the clothing of the girls in the photograph.
“The sea holiday was her past, mine is her laughter” – The sea holiday was a significant event in the speaker’s mother’s past, but for the speaker, it is a memory of her mother’s laughter.
“Both wry with the laboured ease of loss” – The speaker and her mother are described as wry or dryly humorous, but with the sadness and difficulty that comes with loss.
“Now she’s been dead nearly as many years as that girl lived” – The speaker’s mother has been dead for a long time, almost as long as the life of one of the girl cousins in the photograph.
“And of this circumstance there is nothing to say at all. Its silence silences” – The speaker reflects on the silence and inability to say anything about the passing of time and loss of loved ones. The photograph serves as a reminder of the fleeting nature of life and the memories that remain.
Critical Analysis of Poem “A Photograph”
“A Photograph” by Shirley Toulson is a poignant reflection on the passage of time and the transience of life. The poem describes a photograph of the poet’s mother and her two girl cousins, taken when her mother was still a young girl, some twenty or thirty years before the poem was written.
The first stanza of the poem sets the scene, describing the photograph itself and the image it captures. The image is of the two girl cousins paddling in the sea, each holding one of the poet’s mother’s hands, with the uncle taking the photograph. The sea, which appears to have changed less, serves as a reminder of the continuity of nature, even as human life is constantly changing.
In the second stanza, the poet reflects on her mother’s later reaction to the photograph. The poet’s mother would laugh at the snapshot, pointing out the clothes they wore to the beach and reminiscing about the sea holiday. The poet sees the photograph as a connection to her mother’s past, a way of remembering her and preserving her memory.
The third stanza takes a darker turn as the poet reflects on her mother’s death. She has now been dead for nearly as many years as she lived, and there is nothing to say about this circumstance. The silence of death silences all words.
The poem is beautifully crafted, with each stanza building on the previous one to create a powerful sense of loss and the passing of time. The contrast between the joy of the young girls in the photograph and the sadness of the poet’s reflection on her mother’s death creates a poignant tension that makes the poem all the more moving.
The use of imagery is particularly effective in this poem. The image of the sea, which appears unchanged, is a powerful symbol of the continuity of nature, even as human life is constantly changing. The image of the girls smiling through their hair at the camera is also poignant, capturing a moment in time that can never be recaptured.
In conclusion, “A Photograph” is a beautiful and moving poem that explores the themes of loss and the transience of life. Through its skilful use of imagery and language, it captures the fleeting nature of human existence and the power of memory to connect us to the past.
Tone of the Poem “A Photograph” by Shirley Toulson
The tone of the poem is one of melancholy and reflection. The speaker is looking back on a photograph of her mother and her cousins, and reflecting on the passage of time and the transience of life. The tone is wistful, as the speaker longs to connect with her mother’s past, and is saddened by her loss. There is a sense of nostalgia and regret in the poem, as the speaker mourns the passing of time and the impermanence of human life. However, there is also a sense of acceptance and resignation in the poem, as the speaker comes to terms with the inevitability of death and the silence it brings. Overall, the tone of the poem is both mournful and accepting, capturing the complexity of human emotions in the face of loss.
Theme of “A Photograph”
The central idea of the poem “A Photograph” by Shirley Toulson is the passage of time and the transience of life. The poem explores how a photograph can capture a fleeting moment from the past and how, over time, the people in the photograph age, change, and eventually die. The poem emphasizes the importance of cherishing memories and the people in our lives, as they are all temporary and subject to the passing of time. The final lines of the poem suggest that there is a sense of finality to death and that it ultimately leads to silence, emphasizing the theme of transience and the inevitability of loss.
Central Idea of “A Photograph”
The theme of the poem “A Photograph” by Shirley Toulson is the passage of time and the inevitability of loss. The poem reflects on a photograph of the speaker’s mother and her two girl cousins, taken before the speaker was born, and contrasts it with the present, where both the mother and her cousins are now deceased. The photograph captures a moment of happiness and innocence, but also emphasizes the fleeting nature of life, as the sea washes away their transient feet. The mother’s laughter in later years serves as a reminder of the past, but it is also tinged with sadness, as she reflects on the passage of time and how things have changed. The final stanza emphasizes the silence and finality of death, underscoring the poem’s theme of the transience of life and the inevitability of loss.