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NO MEN ARE FOREIGN
By– James Kirkup
Read the following extracts and answer the questions that follow in one or two lines.
Remember, no men are strange, no countries foreign,
Beneath all uniforms, a single body breathes
Like ours; the land our brothers walk upon
Is earth like this, in which we all shall lie.
Emphasising the value of universal brotherhood, the poet draws our attention to the absence of any differences amongst the people of different countries. He asks us never to forget that people living in other countries are not strange or unfamiliar. Under their different types of clothes, all human beings are the same. All human bodies live and breathe in a similar fashion. We are all brothers because we walk upon the same earth that we have divided into countries. Also, we all shall meet this same earth in the end when we shall be buried in it after death.
1. What makes men strange and countries foreign?
Geographical boundaries segregate countries. We consider countries other than ours to be ‘foreign’ and the people living in these countries to be ‘strange’.
2. Explain: ‘Beneath all uniforms, a single body breathes’.
The line means that though the outward appearance of people varies because of the difference in their attire, there is an inherent similarity between all human beings. All people live and breathe in a similar fashion. Militaries in the world may don different uniforms but they comprise of human beings who essentially are the same anywhere in the world.
3. Who is referred to as ‘our brothers’ in this stanza?
The people who live in countries other than ours have been referred to as our brothers because basically, we all have similar emotions, hopes, joys and sorrows.
4. Explain: “In which we all shall lie.”
The poet says that at the end of our respective lives, we all shall lie buried in the same earth. He means to draw our attention to the common fate that awaits us regardless of our nationality.
5. What lesson can we learn from these lines?
These lines teach us the lesson of peace, universal brotherhood and harmony. We learn that since all people in the world are like our brothers and sisters, there are no enemies or strangers to be afraid of.
They, too, aware of sun and air and water,
Are fed by peaceful harvests, by war’s long winter starv’d.
Their hands are ours, and in their lines, we read
A labour was not different from our own.
All the people of the world are nourished and nurtured equally by the elements of Nature like sun, air and water. Everyone is united by the sameness of spirit. Like us, the people in other countries too enjoy the harvests in peaceful times and dread starvation caused by long-drawn wars. They too toil to earn the livelihood and their destiny is similar to ours.
1. Who does ‘they’ refer to in the first line?
‘They’ refers to the people of countries other than ours, whom we consider being strange.
2. What are they aware of?
‘They’ to are aware of the benefits of sun, air and water. Like us, they also draw sustenance from these elements of nature.
3. Explain the expression: ‘Their hands are ours’.
‘Their hands are ours’ means that they too work hard like us with their hands to earn their livelihood. It also means that human beings have basically the same physiognomy.
4. Which poetic device has been used in “war’s long winter starv’d”? Why has war’s winter been called long?
The poetic device used in “war’s long winter starv’d” is a ‘metaphor’. Here the starvation caused by the harsh winter season has been compared indirectly to the destructive period of wartime. The winter of war has been called ‘long’ because unlike the natural phenomenon of the winter season, it is self-inflicted trouble that not only robs the warmth of peace but also seems unending.
5. Explain: ‘A labour not different from our own’.
This expression means that the hard work done by the people who live in other countries is not different in any way from the one that we do. All of us have to toil and work hard in a similar way for survival.
Remember they have eyes like ours that wake
Or sleep, and strength that can be won By love.
In every land is the common life
That all can recognise and understand.
The poet asks us to remember that the so-called ‘strange’ and ‘foreign’ people experience sleep and wakefulness like us. Like us, they too can be won over by love and not by force.T heir experiences of life are similar to that of ours. Hence, we all find something familiar in each other’s life and identify with each other.
1. Who do the words ‘they’ and ‘ours’ refer to?
‘They’ refers to people of different countries whom we consider to be strange. ‘Ours’ refers to the people living in our own country whom we consider to be like us.
2. Explain: ‘they have eyes like ours that wake or sleep’.
The poet is trying to bring home the idea that those people whom we consider strange or foreign are similar to us in every way. They sleep and wake up each new day just like us. Even though the colour and shape of their eyes is different from ours, they perform a similar function.
3. According to the poet, how can we win other people?
The poet says that the strength of other people can be won by love and kindness, not by force or war.
4. What do you understand by ‘common life’?
‘Common life’ means life anywhere in the world that has similar patterns and features – birth and death, joys and sorrows, youth and old age, and so on and so forth. This commonness of ‘common life’ is experienced by all the people of the world regardless of the country in which they live.
Let us remember, whenever we are told
To hate our brothers, it is ourselves
That we shall dispossess, betray, condemn.
Remember, we who take arms against each other.
The poet says whenever we are asked by our leaders or rulers to hate and exploit the people of other countries, we must remember that this hatred would have a negative effect on us. We would find ourselves cheated as it would deprive us of the S bliss of universal brotherhood. We would condemn ourselves to a life of enmity and strangeness.
1. Who do you think tells us to hate our brothers?
The opportunist and power-hungry leaders and politicians, who are at the helm of affairs during wartime, tell us to hate our brothers.
2. Why do we sometimes hate our brothers?
We sometimes hate our brothers because we allow vested and unscrupulous politicians and religious leaders to instigate us. We are taken in by their lies about our differences and begin to consider our brothers as strange and foreign.
3. How shall we dispossess ourselves?
We shall dispossess ourselves by hating our brothers in other parts of the world when we are told by the politically motivated people to do so. These brothers are not foreign or strange just because they belong to different countries, races and cultures.
4. What advice does the poet give us in these lines?
The poet advises us to ignore the directions of those who incite us to hate and exploit others because by doing so we harm ourselves.
It is the hurt earth that we defile,
Our hells of fire and dust outrage the innocence
Of air that is everywhere our own.
Remember, no men are foreign, and no countries strange.
The poet again reminds us that war is futile as it spoils the very earth for which we take up arms against each other. The deadly weapons emit fire and ashes that spread all over and pollute the environment. This robs the air of its purity and the world become a more difficult place to live in. It is, therefore, important not to consider any human being as foreign and any country as strange. We must build mutual respect and trust.
1. What is ‘human earth’?
‘Human earth’ is the human world that is comprised of all countries, races, cultures and creeds.
2. How do we define human earth?
We defile or pollute the human earth by using arms and ammunition to cause widespread death and destruction. Modern day weapons and modem industries cause irreparable damage to the environment.
3. Whom do we harm by going to war?
By going to war, we harm ourselves as much as we harm the enemy. The environmental pollution makes this earth an equally unhealthy place to live in for both sides that go to war.
4. Explain: ‘hells of fire and dust’ and ‘the innocence of air’.
‘Hells of fire and dust’ stands for the devastation created and caused by the arms and ammunition used in wars. ‘Innocence of air’ means the freshness and purity of air that nature has blessed us with. It also indicates the innocence of the human mind. The dust and smoke thus caused pollute the very air we breathe.
5. What does the poet want to convey by telling us that “It is the human earth that we defile”?
The poet wants to convey that wars cause massive destruction of life and property. They ruin the clean and green environment of the earth and breed hatred and enmity. Hence, no one benefits from war because the damage caused to earth is to be borne equally, for we all share the same earth.