LitScope: Poisoned Talk by Raymond Wilson
For Malaysian Form 3 Students in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Negeri Sembilan and Malacca.
Who Killed cock robin?
I, said the worm,
I did him great harm.
He died on the branch of a withered tree
From the acid soil that poisoned me.
Who killed the heron?
I, mouthed the fish,
With my tainted flesh
I killed tern, duck and drake,
All the birds of the lake.
Who killed the lake?
I, boasted Industry,
I poisoned with mercury
Fish, plant and weed
To pamper men’s greed.
Who killed the flowers?
I, moaned the wind,
I prowl unconfined
Blowing acid rain
Over field, flood and fen
Who killed the forest?
I ensured that it died,
Said sulphur dioxide.
And all life within it,
From earthworm to linnet.
extracted from Poetry for Pleasure by Sadler & Hayllar
The poet: Raymond Wilson
- Born 1874.
- British literary scholar, author and academician.
- Served in World War 1 and Red Cross in France.
- Wrote a variety of subjects relating to English Literature, history and culture.
What are the stanzas about?
The worm claimed it killed cock robin. However, it was what killed the worm, killed the bird too. The worm was poisoned from the acid soil it was living in, and when it fell prey to the bird, the bird died from the poison too.
In this stanza, the fish claimed it killed the heron and many other birds of the lake because of its tainted flesh. The tainted flesh also indicates that the fish was already dead before it was eaten by the bird, however, the poet did not specify how the fish was killed.
This time, the industry boasted it killed the lake, also means that the industry rendered the lake into an inhabitable condition. However, the industry justifies its killing of the lake’s animals and plants was to pamper men’s greed.
The wind accepted responsibility for the death of the flowers. The wind claimed it blew the acid rain towards the flowers eventually killing them.
At the end of the poem, the poet’s last question was: “Who killed the forest?” Sulphur Dioxide, a poisonous gas to humans and the environment, said it was responsible for the forest’s death. Not only did the gas kill the forest, it was killed everything living in it.
So what is the whole poem about then
The poem talks about the destruction of nature because of man’s actions. In these five stanzas, the persona asks questions about who killed who or what, and then is answered by those responsible, all leading back to man’s activities on Earth which is killing the Earth.
This poem also serves as a reminder of what will happen to our planet if nothing is done to stop further killing the planet. Or, this poem is showing people reality of what is actually happening today to make them realise if nothing is done soon enough, we would die killing the planet till its last breath of oxygen.
Life in the forest was dying. From small creatures to big ones, a chain reaction has caused the death of several living things in the forest, but all of the deaths were pointing back to the industry. The pollution from the industrial area nearby might have contributed to water, air and ground pollution. The effects of pollution were then felt, with the death of animals and plants, causing the biodiversity in that area to be in chaos.
Industries continue growing bigger and bigger to satisfy demands. However, as industries grow, so as pollution. Protecting the environment is an expensive business, but with the lack of guidelines and laws, big industries continue spewing tons of pollution into the environment, chocking it, literally. Most of the time, man’s leap forward often ends up with several leaps backwards for the environment.
Protecting Nature is a Collective Responsibility
It is everyone’s responsibility when it comes to the environment. We should do small things like recycling, and avoid buying plastic or other products which may contain hazardous materials to the environment or of animal sources. If every person play their part in protecting the environment, the world will be a better place, one small step at a time.
The persona questions how the forest and those living inside died.
- An industrial zone with a forest and a lake located closely
- The poem may be set in Western Parts of the world, mainly Europe, and highly likely in London as the poet is from there.
- Late 20th century – effects of acid rain were only discovered in the late 1960s.
- Pollution of any kind are bad to the environment.
- Government should pass and enforce stricter laws to curb pollution by the industry.
- Keeping the environment clean is everyone’s responsibility.
- If man were to continue polluting the Earth, we will soon have to find a new planet.
- This poem has a specific rhythm ( a, b, b, c, c. )
- The first line of each stanza starts with a question.
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