Poem-3 Keeping Quiet- Extra Questions and Notes

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Extra Questions, Notes, Assignment and study material for Class 12th as Per CBSE Syllabus

Chapter- 3 English Language and Literature

           Lesson Name- Keeping Quiet

                                                                                                                        By- Pablo Neruda

 About the Author                                               

Pablo Neruda – A Short Biography

The Poet

Pablo Neruda was the pen name and, later, legal name of the Chilean poet-diplomat and politician Ricardo Eliecer Neftali Reyes Basoalto. He derived his pen name from the Czech poet Jan Neruda. Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

Introduction of the lesson- Chapter’s Name

 Theme / Central Idea of the Lesson. Analysis of Keeping Quiet


The poet, Pablo Neruda, urges mankind to cease all activity for a little while. During these few moments of silence and inactivity, all human beings would be one, united, and in harmony with each other and nature. This togetherness and oneness is most desirable for the survival of the earth and of human beings. Neruda believes that the soul housed within the human body is capable of performing this feat if given a chance to shine out through introspection, for which absolute silence and stillness is essential.


 Keeping Quiet is written in blank verse and has no rhyme scheme.

Moral/ Message of the lesson Keeping Quiet


`Keeping Quiet’ leaves a message of universal brotherhood and peace. It urges people to stop all sorts of aggression, including that towards the environment. If we think of ourselves as the hands of the clock on the face of this earth, moving in our routine ways, won’t it be a good thing to stop at twelve and do some introspection?

Poetic Devices

 `Count to twelve’ — symbolizes a measure of time. The clock has twelve markings on it, the year has twelve months and the day has twelve hours. `Fishermen in the cold sea…hurt hands’-symbolic image showing how man is ruthlessly destroying nature for his selfish need. The ‘hurt hands’ of the salt gatherer symbolises how he is harming himself by his mindless activities.

 Fisherman and whale stand for the oppressor and oppressed respectively. ‘Cold sea’ — transferred epithet.

 Put on clean clothes’- Alliteration

Introspection will make us comprehend the destructive nature of wars. Man would cleanse his heart purging it of hatred.

`Brothers’ — a symbol of mankind

`In the shade’ — metaphor — just as shade protects us from the harsh sun, we will protect and shelter each other as brothers, thus live in peace and harmony.

`Clean clothes’ symbolize peace and change in one’s perspective.

`Earth can teach us as when everything’ — Personification. Earth is personified as a teacher. When the earth appears to be dead, it is actually dormant and carefully preserving the seeds of life, human beings too need to keep still and quiet to re-awaken the life forces to be productive.

The poet urges people to get into a mode of total inactivity for some seconds. There should only be silence, no movement and a mood of introspection. He condemns the mundane activities. He says that we should not indulge in any mindless activity or speak in any language, nor does he want any gestures of arms that can distract or disturb. He says that we should commit ourselves to complete silence and inactivity

This moment of complete inactivity would be an extraordinary, memorable or cherished moment. There would be no rush of activity, no noise and no disturbance. Man would not have to cope with the fast pace of life. This would be a profound moment of bonding and togetherness. There would be a complete relaxation of mind, body and soul.

The poet talks about a metaphorical concept when he says that fishermen would not harm marine life. ‘Cold sea’ denotes the coldness of fishermen who do not bother about protection of sea life and in moments of inactivity, they would not be able to disturb the sea animals. The salt gatherers would also stop to look at their calloused hands that hurt due to this activity. They too would pause to think about their mindless activities and their effects.

 The poet feels that the whole speculation of wars and their destructive qualities would be negated during those moments of silence. ‘Green wars’ refers to environmental degradation caused by human activities, ‘wars’ with gases and fires refers to wars fought with nuclear and bioweapons. A man may get the satisfaction of being victorious but ironically, wars leave behind no survivors.

Those human beings who wage wars would be cleansed of all the murk and dirt from their minds. They would then walk about with other individuals and exhibit amity, brotherhood and harmony. They would do nothing to harm mankind or nature.

The poet does not wish to advocate total inactivity or silence, which may be misunderstood, and confused with death. Life continues to remain what we make of it. If we were not so concerned about keeping our lives active, i.e., doing things mindlessly and waging wars. We perhaps would not lose sight of our goals. Our desire to achieve goals makes us single-minded and desperate. It is then that we lose all perspective. The poet feels that silence for a while might alleviate sadness from our lives. Quiet productivity in place of all activities is desirable. The end of all activities does not mean death but just a break from the monotony of a stressful life.

The poet, in the last lines, feels that we can learn a lesson from earth. It can teach us how silence is productive. The earth appears calm and quiet but is actually nurturing life. Things may die but are reborn and the cycle goes on because the earth brings forth new life. The poet appeals to all human beings to make an effort to keep inactive/ quiet. He has initiated the state of inactivity and now it is the human beings who can carry on with this idea while he makes a quiet exit.

Figures of Speech


 – sudden strangeness (stanza 3)

 – clean clothes (stanza 5)

(Referring to clean minds and bodies)

  1. Transferred Epithet

– Cold sea (stanza 4)



  1. The urgent need for mankind to introspect, buy time to start afresh.
  2. To put an end to all destructive activities, be at peace, in universal brotherhood.
  3. The need to live in peaceful co-existence with nature, to stop harming animals and avoid annihilation of the human race.


  1. The poet counts up to 12, as a countdown to stop all activity (12 indicating the twelve markings on the clock/12 months signifying the passage of time) people all over the world stop working, bound in an `exotic’ moment as it has never happened before.
  2. Fishermen don’t kill whales and the man stops extracting salt hurting his hands in the process. Men indulging in wars, chemical or otherwise, harming the environment, stop their destructive activities, don’t clean clothes and are at peace with each other, `in the shade’ as against the fiery wars where there would be no survivors.
  3. The poet wants productive inactivity, not inactivity per se which would be a death-like a state. He thinks men are single-minded in the following a routine, without introspecting and gauging to see where they are going with their lives, there is a vacuum in their lives, a deep sadness as they have no time to ponder over what they want from life.
  4. The Earth, he thinks can teach us the need to take a break (as it seems to hibernate in winter, seems dead but comes back to life in full force in spring) to resurrect our life and start afresh. After conveying his message, the poet feels he can pass on the mantle of responsibility to mankind who can follow his path shown by him.


  1. Use of repetition with a difference in the first and last lines of the poem.
  2. ‘put on clean clothes’ metaphorical—cleanse one’s soul, remove traces of bloodshed.
  3. Image of the earth-nurturer and life-giver.

Following is the complete question bank for – Keeping Quiet


MULTIPLE CHOICE QUESTIONS (MCQ – TEST)                                                                           (1 Mark Each)

Tick the correct answer:

  1. The poet appeals to the readers to keep quiet for

 (a) twenty seconds                        (b) 1 hour

(c) thirty seconds                             (d) twelve seconds

  1. He advises the people not to speak

 (a) French                                          (b) Spanish

(c) any language                               (d) English

  1. What kind of a moment would it be when everyone is silent

(a) terrible                                          (b) painful

(c) exotic                                             (d) unforgettable

  1. Sudden strangeness is one of the following poetic devices:

 (a) simile                                             (b) personification

(c) alliteration                                    (d) repetition

  1. Fishermen in the cold sea would not harm

 (a) seahorses                                    (b) mermaids

 (c) whales                                          (d) tortoises

  1. Who would look at his hurt hands?

 (a) man gathering salt                   (b) man gathering stones

(c) boys picking rags                        (d)grave-diggers

  1. The types of wars the poet talks about are

 (a) green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire (b) verbal wars

(c) technological warfare                              (d) nuclear wars

  1. The men in clean clothes would be walking with their

 (a) wives                             (b) brothers

(c) nephews                       (d) friends

  1. Where would they be walking?

 (a) in the park                                   (b) along the river

(c) in the shade                                                 (d) on the road

  1. What, according to the poet, would interrupt the sadness of man’s life?

(a) great laughter                             (b) huge silence

(c) arguments                                    (d) fights

  1. What does man threaten himself with?

(a) death                                             (b) birth

(c) robbery                                         (d) suicide

  1. We can learn a lesson from

 (a) the trees                                      (b) nature

(c) animals                                          (d) The earth

  1. The poet advocates the balance of nature to be

 (a) maintained                                                 (b)destroyed

 (c) temporarily disturbed            (d) ignored

  1. In the end, he again appeals to the people that he would

 (a) initiate the state of inactivity (b) will not bother at all

 (c) completely ignore everyone (d) destroy the earth

  1. ‘Have no truck with death’ means

 (a) will not die of the truck accident        (b) remove poverty and illiteracy

 (c) have no association or deal with death (d) will not drive a truck

  1. The poet of ‘Keeping Quiet’ is

(a) P.B Shelley                                   (b) Vikram Seth

(c) Pablo Neruda                              (d) Kamala, Das

  1. The poet wants the entire humanity to

 (a) keep talking                                (b) keep running

 (c) keep laughing                            (d) keep still

  1. When the poet says ‘we will’ count to twelve he means

(a) entire mankind                          (b) his own family

(c) his friends                                     (d) his wife and himself

  1. Without rush, without engines’ refers to

 (a) no noise                       (b) no hurry to go to the office

(c) no travelling                 (d) no holidaying

  1. ‘Fishermen not harming whales’ means

(a) not causing extinction of whales        (b) not disturbing balance in nature

(c) not going for fishing                                                 (d) not disturbing the sea

  1. ‘Cold sea’ is a poetic device

 (a) personification                          (b)transferred epithet

(c) metaphor                                     (d) alliteration

  1. The man looking at his hurt hands is a

 (a) salt gatherer                               (b) diamond cutter

(c) rag-picker                                     (d) surgeon

  1. According to the poet wars that are fought have no

 (a) soldiers                                         (b) weapons

(c) fighter planes                              (d) survivors

  1. A man should be – with nature

 (a) totally compatible                                    (b) at war

(c) confused                                                       (d) irresponsible

  1. Man needs to learn a lesson from

 (a) moon                                            (b) stars

(c) earth                                                (d) sun

  1. What will counting up to twelve help us with?

(a) achieving harmony, brotherhood      (b) achieving goals and ambitions

(c) fulfilling wishes                                            (d) winning a race

  1. The last line of the poem is

(a) and later proves to be alive                  (c) I want no truck with death

(b) life is what it is about                               (d) and you keep quiet and I will go

  1. The poet evokes a symbol in order to invoke that there can be life even with stillness. The symbol is

(a) earth                              (b) rain

(c) storm                              (d) cloud

  1. The poet uses conversational style and personal pronouns as ‘you’, ‘we’ and `I’ because

 (a) he wants to be intimate with mankind           (b) he tries to read out to the readers

 (c) he wants to establish contact easily                                 (d) third person is ineffective

  1. The poetic device used in the last line ‘when everything seems dead and later proves to be alive’ is

(a) imagery                                         (b) irony

(c) paradox                                         (d) transferred epithet


1.(d) twelve seconds 2. (c) any language                     

 3. (c) exotic               4.(c) alliteration

5. (c) whales               6. (a) man gathering salt

7.(a) green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire  8. (b) brothers

9.(c) in the shade 10. (b) huge silence                      

11. (a) death        12. (d) the earth

13. (a) maintained  14. (a) initiate the state of inactivity

15.(c) have no association or deal with death

16.(c) Pablo Neruda 17. (d) keep still

18. (a) entire mankind  21.(a) no noise

20.(a) not causing the extinction of whales  21. (b) transferred epithet

22.(a) salt gatherer 23. (d) survivors

24.(a) totally compatible 25. (c) earth

26.(a) achieving harmony, brotherhood

27.(d) and you keep quiet and I will go  28. (a) earth

29.(b) he tries to read out to the readers  30. (b) irony

 Read the extracts and answer the questions that follow.

1. Read the lines given below and answer the questions that follow: (1 x 4 = 4)

                               Now we will count to twelve

                               And we will all keep still.

                               For once on the face of the Earth

                               Let’s not speak in any language,

                               Let’s stop for one second,

                              And not move our arms so much.

(a)What does the poet appeal for?

Ans. The poet appeals for peace and harmony on the earth.

(b) To attain this, what does he expect all of us to do?

 Ans. He expects all human beings to be silent, totally inactive and introspect.

 (c) Why does he advocate silence?

 Ans. He advocates silence so that human beings could introspect about themselves without any external disturbance.

 (e)What kind of activity does the poet feel the man is involved with?

 Ans. The poet feels that man is leading a very monotonous and dull existence. He is also engaged in destructive activities that harm himself and nature too.

  1. It would be an exotic moment                                                                                       (1 x 4 = 4 Marks)

                                         Without rush, without engines,

                                          We would all be together

                                          in a sudden strangeness.

                                          Fishermen in the cold sea

                                         Would not harm whales

                                         And the man gathering salt

                                        Would look at his hurt hands.

 (a) What does he mean by ‘exotic moment’?

 Ans. By ‘exotic moment’ the poet means that this moment will be worth cherishing as it would be extraordinary.

(b) How could man achieve this exotic moment?

 Ans. In this exotic moment, man would be able to stop all activity, remain silent and introspect. He would feel enlightened and be in harmony with man and nature.

 (c) What kind of a feeling would this exotic moment evoke?

Ans. It would be an extraordinary moment as a man would be at peace with himself and his surroundings. This moment might reduce man’s sadness at having generated negative thoughts.

(d)What harm do the fishermen do and why do salt gatherer’s hands hurt?

 Ans. The fishermen kill the whales and cause their extinction while salt gatherers’ hands hurt due to the course and rough feel of the salt causing pain to their hands.

  1. Those who prepare green wars,                                  (1 x 4 = 4)

                                    Wars with gas, wars with fire,

                                    Victory with no survivors

                                    Would put on clean clothes

                                    And walk about with their brothers

                                   In the shade, doing nothing.

(a)What are the kinds of wars mentioned in the above lines?

Ans. The poet mentions three types of wars, i.e. green wars that man wages against nature and the environment. He also mentions wars with gas and wars with fire meaning that man kills other human beings with the help of biological and nuclear weapons.

(b)What are green wars?

Ans.`Green wars’ refers to the environmental degradation caused by man’s mindless activities.

(c)How would the wars affect our lives?

Ans. Apart from the death of thousands of innocent people, the war would not leave anyone victorious because there would be no survivors.

(d)What could be the ideal situation?

Ans. An ideal situation would be one in which human beings would be seen happily walking with others hence depicting a feeling of oneness, unity and brotherhood. There will peace and universal brotherhood.

  1. What I want would not be (1 x 4 = 4)


 With total inactivity.

 Life is what it is about;

I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing,

Perhaps a huge silence

 Might interrupt this sadness 

Of never understanding ourselves 

And of threatening ourselves with death.

  • What does the poet mean by inactivity?

Ans. By ‘inactivity’ the poet means a period of total silence, no work, no disturbance. He visualizes a calm and quiet atmosphere where man introspects and there is productive silence.

  • How is inactivity different from death?

 Ans. The poet only wishes for a few moments of inactivity and man be able to reflect on his actions. Death, on the other hand, is the end of life, which the poet does not advocate.

(c)What makes us sad and what are we single-minded about?

 Ans. We are single-minded about moving on with our lives and focus only on our ambitions and goals. The mechanised lifestyle and the feeling that we cause a threat to our own destruction makes us feel sad.

  • What does the poet mean by ‘to have no truck with death’?

 Ans. The poet wants to have no association with death as death is the end of life. He only appeals that we should be more productive and give up endless and futile pursuits that cause unhappiness.

  1. Perhaps the Earth can teach us (1 x 4 = 4)

 As when everything seems dead

And later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve

And you keep quiet and I will go

 (a) What can the Earth teach us?

 Ans. The earth can teach us how to be in harmony with others while remaining silent and productive.

(b) How does it teach us this lesson?

Ans. The earth continues to nurture life despite all the harm done to it by man. It silently goes about its work and this is the lesson that we should learn from it.

 (c)How does the Earth ‘prove to be alive’?

 Ans. The Earth nurtures life and ensures that the life cycle of birth, life and death moves on and the process of regeneration goes on unhampered.

(d)What is the poet’s appeal?

 Ans. The poet appeals to man to make an effort to keep silent for a few seconds and introspect in order to make amends for a harmonious environment.

 Short Answer Type Questions  (30 to 40 words)

SHORT ANSWER TYPE QUESTIONS                                                                                          (3 Marks Each)

  1. 1. What is the poet’s appeal to the people?

 Ans. The poet appeals to all the people to count up to twelve and then to be completely silent. During this period of silence, he urges them to remain calm and stop all physical activity. He only wants peace during this time.

  1. To attain this, what does he expect all of us to do?

 Ans. The poet expects all mankind to shun all activity, remain silent and indulge in introspection in order to understand the meaning of life, their own destructive activities and make amends.

  1. Why does he advocate silence?

 Ans. He advocates silence because according to him, it is only during the few seconds of silence and inactivity, that man will be able to take stock of his harmful activities and then try to practise harmony and brotherhood in the world.

  1. What kind of activity does the poet feel is a man involved in?

Ans. Man is involved in a large number of destructive activities. He is creating noise pollution, environmental pollution, destroying wildlife and marine life. He is waging wars and is also destroying his own fellow men.

  1. What does the poet mean by ‘exotic moment’ and how can man achieve it?

 Ans. By ‘exotic moment’ the poet means the moments of silence and inactivity which will be extraordinary and memorable because man will reflect on his activities and hence be able to make amends. This exotic moment can only be achieved through total silence and inactivity even it is for a few seconds.

  1. What kind of a feeling would this exotic moment evoke?

 Ans. This feeling may be strange because it is not easy to imagine a situation of complete peace and silence. According to the poet, this moment might remove our sadness of never understanding ourselves and indulged in self-destructive activities.

  1. What harm do the fishermen do and why do the salt gatherers hands hurt?

 Ans. The fishermen harm the marine life by killing the whales in the seas and hastening their extinction. The salt gatherers’ hands hurt because the harsh and coarse feel of salt causes discomfort and pain to their hands.

  1. What are the kinds of wars mentioned in the poem?

Ans. The poet mentions green wars, i.e., wars that man is waging against nature hence causing environmental degradation, wars with gas and fire or using harmful biological and nuclear weapons to cause maximum destruction to life and property. War with fire refers to the conventional mode of combat.

  1. What can be the consequence of the war in our lives?

Ans. The poet observes that wars cause death and destruction. It leaves behind no survivors and hence no victory for anyone. It is an ironical situation which can be avoided if a man takes action and decides never to wage wars.

  1. What could be an ideal situation according to the poet?

Ans. The poet strongly maintains that the ideal situation would be when people can happily walk hand in hand under shady trees i.e. amidst a cool and harmonious atmosphere. They will then practise oneness, unity and brotherhood.

  1. How is inactivity different from death? What does the poet mean by `to have no truck with death’?

 Ans. According to the poet total inactivity only means a temporary stillness, whereas death means the end of life. ‘No truck with death’ means that the poet does not want any association with death. He only urges mankind to halt the harmful activities for a few seconds.

  1. What are we single-minded about?

Ans. The poet feels that individuals only think about keeping our lives moving at all costs, and in the process lose sight of their goals. People only yearn for progress and fulfilment of ambitions, and that remains the only focus while they are alive. Man is single-minded in his pursuit of wealth, supremacy and territorial acquisition.

  1. What, according to the poet, causes sadness?

Ans. Mindless destructive activities cause sadness in our lives. Behaviour that threatens mankind leads to sadness and unhappiness.

  1. What can the Earth teach us? How?

 Ans. The Earth can teach us to be productive and useful even when there is silence. The Earth nurtures all living beings, plants and animals and quietly maintains the balance in nature. It helps in the rebirth of new life. We can all learn to be productive yet silent.

  1. How does Earth prove to be alive?

 Ans. The earth nurtures life and brings forth new form. There is a regeneration of every living thing on this earth and all things that die, are reborn and the cycle of life moves on.

  1. How would keep quiet affect life in and around the sea?  [All India 2017]

Ans. In the state of stillness and silence, the fishermen will not harm the already endangered whales. In the same way, the salt gatherers whose hands get hurt during the salt gathering process, will stop for a while and rest their hands and do some introspection.

Important Long/ Detailed Answer Type Questions- to be answered in about 100 -150 words each Value based questions-


Answer the following questions                                                                                                      (6 Marks Each)

 Q1. What does the narrator mean by ‘green wars’? What will be the consequence of such a war?

Ans. ‘Green wars’ means the war against the environment. In our pursuit of progress and materialism, we forget the harm we cause to the world. Our resources are depleting. If we don’t take measures to save our environment, our children will not enjoy the resources available to us.

Q2. What according to Pablo Neruda would be the ultimate end of a man if the present scenario of wars continues?

 Ans. If the present scenario of conflict continues, there will be a victory but no ‘survivors’. Pablo Neruda suggests that we must all keep still and introspect so that there is peace and world unity. It is only during the few seconds of silence and inactivity, that man will be able to take stock of his harmful activities and then try to practise harmony and brotherhood in the world.


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