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The Secret of Machines

We were taken from the ore-bed and the mine,

We were melted in the furnace and the pit

We were cast and wrought and hammered to design,

We were cut and filed and tooled and gauged to fit.


Some water, coal, and oil is all we ask,

And a thousandth of an inch to give us play:

And now, if you will set us to our task,

We will serve you four and twenty hours a day!


We can pull and haul and push and lift and drive,

We can print and plough and weave and heat and light,

We can run and race and swim and fly and dive,

We can see and hear and count and read and write!


But remember, please, the Law by which we live,

We are not built to comprehend a lie,

We can neither love nor pity nor forgive,

If you make a slip in handling us you die!


Though our smoke may hide the Heavens from your eyes,

It will vanish and the stars will shine again,

Because, for all our power and weight and size,

We are nothing more than children of your brain!


- Rudyard Kipling


The poem deals with the problem of modern technology and automation. In the beginning the reader gets informed about how machines are produced and what kind of treatment they need. Afterwards the machines explain how they can serve humanity. The poem ends with the statement that machines, although capable of great deeds, are still nothing more than creations of the human brain.


About the author

Rudyard Kipling was born on December 30, 1865, in Bombay, India. He was educated in England but returned to India in 1882. A decade later, Kipling married Caroline Balestier and settled in Brattleboro, Vermont, where he wrote The Jungle Book (1894), among a host of other works that made him hugely successful. Kipling was the recipient of the 1907 Nobel Prize in Literature. He died in 1936.


Glossary

furnace (n) – an enclosed structure in which material is heated to very high temperatures

wrought (adj.) – beaten out of shape by hammering

gauge (n) – an instrument that measures perfection in appearance and quality

thousandth (adv.) – a fraction of thousand

haul (v) – pull or drag with effort or force

comprehend(v) – grasp, understand

vanish(v) – disappear suddenly and completely


Answer the following questions briefly.


1. Who does ‘we’ refer to in first stanza?

a. Human beings

b. Machines


Ans: b. Machines


2. Who are the speakers and listeners of this poem?

Ans: The machines are the speakers and the readers are the listeners.


3. What metals are obtained from ores and mines? Iron ore

Ans: The metals obtained from ores are iron ores and minerals from mines.


4. Mention a few machines which are hammered to design.

Ans: Axe, Pulley, Screw, Robots are hammered to design.


5. Mention the names of a few machines that run on water, coal or oil.

Ans: Steam engine, Hydraulic power station, Coal plants, Diesel engine.


6. Mention a few machines used for pulling, pushing, lifting, driving, printing, ploughing, reading, and writing etc.

Ans: JCB, Crane, Printer, Tiller, Computer


7. Are machines humble to accept the evolution of human brain? Why?

The machines are not humble to accept the evolution of human brain. They warn us to be humble and tell us about their power to wipe out mankind.


8. What feelings are evoked in us by the machines in this poem?

Ans: Love, pity and forgiveness are the feelings evoked in us by the machines.


9. ‘And a thousandth of an inch to give us play:’

Which of the following do the machines want to prove from this line?

a. Once Machines are fed with fuel, they take a very long time to start.

b. Once Machines are fed with fuel, they start quickly.


Ans: b. Once Machines are fed with fuel, they start quickly.


10. And now, if you will set us to our task,

We will serve you four and twenty hours a day!


a. Who does the pronoun ‘you’ refer to here?

Ans: The pronoun ‘you’ refers to human, us.


b. Whose task is referred to as ‘our task’ here?

Ans: Machine’s task is referred as ‘our task’.


c. Open conditional clause is used in the given line. Why is the future tense ‘will set’ and ‘will serve’ used both in the ‘if clause’ and in the ‘main clause?’

Ans: The future tense is because the people do not make use of the machines properly. So the poet stresses that, if they are set to their work properly, they will work perfectly.


d. Do the machines serve us twenty-four hours a day?

Ans: Yes. If used properly.


e. Rewrite the given lines with the ending ‘365 days a year.’

Ans: And now, if you will set us to our task, we will serve you, 365 days a year.


Poetic Devices


1) Rhythm and rhyme:

Rhyme Scheme Rhyme scheme is a poet’s deliberate pattern of lines that rhyme with other lines in a poem or a stanza. The rhyme scheme, or pattern, can be identified by giving end words that rhyme.


But remember, please, the Law by which we live, ............ a

We are not built to comprehend a lie, ............ b

We can neither love nor pity nor forgive, ............ a

If you make a slip in handling us you die! ............ b


It has a clear rhyming words with a,b,a,b so the rhyming scheme is a,b,a,b.

The rhyme is also clear with the same sound. E.g. pit-fit, ask-task, play-day


2) Imagery:

E.g.

The descriptions create a picture in the reader's mind

We can see and hear and count and read and write!

The example explains to us the many tasks that could be completed by the machine.


3) Personification :

Personification is a figure of speech in which a thing – an idea or an animal – is given human attributes.

E.g. We can pull and haul and push and lift and drive


4) Hyperbole:

A figure of speech using exaggeration

E.g. We are greater than the Peoples and the Kings.


5) Assonance:

Repetition of two or more vowel sounds

E.g. all we ask


6) Simile:

Compare things alike

E.g. Greater than the people of the Kings


7) Connotation:

Suggests beyond what it expresses

E.g. Though our smoke may hide the Heavens from your eyes,


8) Alliteration:

Repetition of two or more consonant sounds

E.g. We can print and plough and weave and heat and light,


Write your favourite stanza from the poem and find the rhyming scheme:

We were taken from the ore-bed and the mine,   - a

We were melted in the furnace and the pit   - b

We were cast and wrought and hammered to design,   - a

We were cut and filed and tooled and gauged to fit.  - b

Rhyming scheme: a, b, a, b


Read the poem and find the lines for the following poetic devices or write your own example.


Alliteration:

filed to fit; pull and push; print and plough; run and race; hide the heavens;


Assonance:

Oil is all; pull and push; weave and heat; fly and dive


Personification:

Some water, coal and oil is all we ask

We can pull and haul and push and lift and drive,

Bui remember, please, the Law by which we live

We are nothing more than children of your brain!

 

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