The Earthern Goblet
O silent goblet red from head to heel,
How did you feel
When you were being twirled
Upon the Potter’s wheel
Before the Potter gave you to the world?
‘I felt a conscious impulse in my clay
To break away
From the great Potter’s hand that burned so warm.
I felt vast
Feeling of sorrow to be cast
Into my present form.
‘Before that fatal hour
That saw me captive on the Potter’s wheel
And cast into this crimson goblet-sleep,
I used to feel
The fragrant friendship of a little flower
Whose root was in my bosom buried deep.
‘The Potter has drawn out the living breath of me
And given me a form which is the death of me.
My past unshapely natural state was best
With just one flower flaming through my breast.
This is a brief analysis. A more detailed one will be uploaded later.
This poem is basically about conformity – using force in order to make someone conform to a particular mould.
We have two main characters, and the narrator.
The Goblet is the one who is forcefully subjected to changes. What are some of the characteristics of the Goblet?
- Helplessness – Unable to fend for itself.
- Voiceless – Unable to speak for itself – a goblet is usually voiceless, but the poet gives a voice to the voiceless. It symbolizes people in society who are voiceless.
- Subjected to violence – The goblet is forced to go through certain processes without its consent.
- Endured Pain – ‘The potter’s hand burned so warm’ – He had to go through traumatic experiences.
- Subjected to change – through the violence and the pain the shape of the raw earth if formed into a goblet – this change and forced manipulation makes the goblet depressed with its present form.
The ‘Great Potter’ is the one who uses his ARBITRARY power/authority to force the goblet into what it is now. We know that the Potter is,
- Powerful – He does what he wants.
- Unmerciful – He is not considerate toward the goblet.
- Cruel – His hand burns warm – to make the goblet conform to the shape he wants to make it into, the potter will even make the goblet endure extreme heat.
Let’s take the first stanza.
‘O Silent Goblet’ – The silence of the goblet is significant as the goblet could symbolize people groups who are marginalized (who are not recognized, not given equal opportunities or rights and who go through oppression because there is no one to speak up for them). They do not have a voice of their own. No one pays attention to their troubles. The silence of the goblet shows that these kinds of people are never considered. The people in power do not really regard their lives as worthy of much attention. ‘Black Lives Matter’ is a movement which seeks to draw attention to how black lives are not given the same importance as white lives are, in the US. People in extreme poverty are another group which is almost invisible in society. People working in the tea plantations – the estate workers. They were not given a raise of Rs. 1000 for such a long time – their voice is barely heard, their struggles are barely recognized. The poet gives a voice to the voiceless through the poem.
‘When you were being twirled’ – This suggests the uncontrolled movement that the goblet had to endure at the hand of the potter. This is not a pleasant experience. And the goblet has not given consent to any of this. Therefore, we can understand it to be a forceful and violent action by the potter to change the natural shape of the earth. This action is done by the potter – he is the policy maker, the person who decides which shape the clay will be, and the size etc. The potter commands the life and shape and experience of the goblet. The goblet’s fate is in other’s hands. The reality is not much different when you are born into a community which is a minority or into extreme poverty. The people who wield the power has control over these lives.