Round about | A criss-cross of poetry and polls | punjab$regional-takes | Hindustan Times
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Round about | A criss-cross of poetry and polls

Lines of poetry read long ago, heard in a song or enacted in a play have an uncanny habit of returning to mind in what may be described as the stream of consciousness. And not just the memory but they enter conversations in the form of quotable quotes.

punjab Updated: Feb 05, 2017 13:45 IST
Nirupama Dutt
In Macbeth, these witches who ‘hover through fog and filthy air’ know the future and can tell/foretell events.
In Macbeth, these witches who ‘hover through fog and filthy air’ know the future and can tell/foretell events.(Getty Images/Stock)

Lines of poetry read long ago, heard in a song or enacted in a play have an uncanny habit of returning to mind in what may be described as the stream of consciousness. And not just the memory but they enter conversations in the form of quotable quotes. Hail poetry and its power of reaching out that we hang on to it even in the most prosaic of times.

Every language and culture has a list of often-quoted poets and lines of poetry. So much so that these lines acquire a life of their own even as many of those who quote them are not quite sure of who penned them, when and why.

Few would know that ‘Tis better to have loved and lost/ Than never to have loved at all’ was written by Alfred Tennyson in the memory of a lost friend. Incidentally, it took him 17 long years to pen the poem called ‘In Memoriam A.H.H’. This is one fine example of a line having acquired a life of its own.

TO BE OR NOT TO BE: THAT IS THE QUESTION

So it is with Shakespeare’s Hamlet dilemma ‘To be or not to be: that is the question’. Or for that matter his famous line, ‘If music be the food of love, play on’, is an evergreen quote.

We Indians too have poets across many languages and a set of quotable quotes that come to my mind. These poets are Kabir, Zauq, Ghalib, Sahir Ludhianvi, Kumar Vikal and Surjit Patar just to mention a few.

In our times, the key to knowing the poetry of the Bard of Avon, whose plays were consigned to memory, was to learn it by heart and quote it correctly in the answer sheets with the comas and semi-colons intact. And it is a Shakespearean line that is been constantly haunting me this 4th day of February in one of his least quoted and uttered in the three-witches scene in his play ‘Macbeth’.

Now no more suspense the line is ‘When the hurly-burly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won…’ Now what is all this hurly-burly that is bringing these three witches out of some forgotten corner of the memory? And what is the battle that is to be lost or won?

In the scene in the play these witches who ‘hover through fog and filthy air’ know the future and can tell/foretell events.

But the question here is that why are these creatures bothering my mind? If my memory is not wrong these lines were a reply by the second witch to the first who asks, ‘When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain?’

Unease accompanies me the all day. In the old days, I would have figured it out quickly for I was a student of poetry.

But old age and a prosaic life have played their role in dulling my literary intuitions.

THE CONNECT WITH PUNJAB POLLS?

But let me give it a try and think hard: Ah! Could it be some connection to the hurly-burly of the Punjab polls?

And will there be thunder or lightning or rain on the 17th day of March? But who are these three witches? I wonder.