The Slave's Dream Summary Questions Answers

The Slave's Dream Summary Questions Answers 

The poem, "Slave's Dream" is a good example of manner in which H. W. Longfellow presented vivid pictures of American life in his poems. It is a good example of narrative talent of H. W. Longfellow. Let's explore the summary questions answers of The Slave's Dream

The Slave's Dream Summary Questions Answers

The Slave's Dream Poem Text 

Beside the ungathered rice he lay,
His sickle in his hand;
His breast was bare, his matted hair
Was buried in the sand.
Again, in the mist and shadow of sleep, 
He saw his native land.

Wide through the landscape of his dreams
The lordly Niger flowed;
Beneath the palm-trees on the plain
Once more a king he strode;
And heard the tinkling caravans
Descend the mountain road.

He saw once more his dark-eyed queen
Among her children stand;
They clasped his neck, they kissed his cheeks,
They held him by the hand.
A tear burst from the sleeper's lids
And fell into the sand.
And then at furious speed he rode
Along the Niger's bank;
His bridle-reins were golden chains,
And, with a martial clank,
At each leap he could feel his scabbard of steel
Smiting his stallion's flank.

Before him, like a blood-red flag,
The bright flamingoes flew;
From morn till night he followed their flight,
O'er plains where the tamarind grew,
Till he saw the roofs of Caffre huts 
And the ocean rose to view.

About the poet, H. W. Longfellow:

Born to a lawyer, he fancied literature from his early days and became a Professor of Languages in Bowdoin College, New Brunswick, after a tour of Europe. Later, he moved over to Harvard University, which is known throughout the world at present,  in the capacity of Professor of Modern Languages and Belles-Letters. He died in 1882 at the age of seventy-five. His most popular work is "Song of Hiawatha". He was keenly interested in European Literature and Culture which were parents of his native literature and culture in the making at that time. He translated the Italian epic, "Divine Comedy" by Dante and some German poems too. That his works have real merit, and interpret America to Europe as vividly as they interpret Europe to America, is shown in the fact that his works are popular in England too. 

About the poem, The Slave's Dream:

The poem, "The Slave's Dream" gives a clear picture of one aspect of American society during the days of Longfellow. Slaves were brought from America and sold to the Europeans in the New Continent. They were forced to work on the cornfield, cotton-fields, and tobacco-farms. There was a flourishing slave-market since the labour of the Negroes cost next to nothing for the rich landowners. The conscience of many of the enlightened Americans was stirred, and it was over the Negro that the Civil War was waged between the northern parts of North America and the southern parts during the time of Abraham Lincoln. When Lincoln came out successful, slavery as an institution was abolished throughout the country.
Longfellow belonged to the enlightened class of Americans who hated the idea that man should be the slave of man. The present poem, "The Slave's Dream" served the purpose of rousing the conscience of the people. 

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Summary of the poem The Slave's Dream:

In the poem, "The Slave's Dream" the author describes the dream of an African slave who had been taken by force to America. In the New Continent he was just a labourer in one of the rice-fields. But in the native country of Nigeria in North Africa, he had been the king of a tribe. He had his queen and children and he loved his family as deeply as the white men loved theirs. He had been a warrior of the best type. He had fought heroically with the Caffres or the Kaffirs of the Bantu tribe. But he had fallen into the hands of the slave-hunters who were found along the coasts of Africa during that time. He had been captured by them and carried on by the ships. He had been taken to America and sold as a slave. He had been compelled to work on the fields.
The history of the slave is presented in an interesting manner in the form of a dream during the last moments of his life. He had been made to work too hard, and he was plunged in sleep one day. At that time, his past history floated his mind in a dream. In the dream, he saw his wife and children again. He recalled how he had gone to fight with the Caffres living by the side of the sea-coast. The scenes of the lion roaring at night, of the hyenas screaming and the noise of the hippopotamus in the waters, came back to his mind. Above all, the forests through which he had been roaring at will appeared to shout about LIBERTY. The winds of the desert too appeared to carry the same message of liberty. When he dreamt about his wife and children, unconsciously he shed a tear. When he thought of the liberty shouted by the forests and the wind of the desert, he smiled in his sleep. If he had woken up from his dream, he would have been indeed more miserable than ever. But he did not wake up from his sleep and his pleasant dream. His free spirit escaped out of his imprisoned body and he died free in spirit, as he had been in spirit and body in his native place. 

The Slave's Dream Poem Questions Answers:

1. What is the message conveyed in the poem, "The Slave's Dream"? 
Ans: The message conveyed in the poem is to show that the slaves too are human beings. If anything, the liberty enjoyed by them is greater than that of 'civilized' men. It is cruel, points out Longfellow to imprison them, body and soul, and make them slaves to work without respite. The poem is thus an appeal to the conscience of the White Man not to indulge in such an inhuman task. In a sense different from Wordsworth's, Longfellow laments 'what man had made of man' in this poem. It was writings and the speeches of such persons that roused the conscience of the Americans at last, and made them take the side of the enslaved Negroes. 

2. How does Longfellow bring out the sympathy for the African Negroes in the poem? 
Ans: Longfellow rouses our sympathy for the enslaved Africans through the description of the dreams of a slave. One of the slaves in America was stretched on the fields thoroughly tired out. It was his last sleep. During that sleep, a dream occured to him. His past life floated through his mind in that 'mist' or vague condition of sleep. He saw in his imagination his native land. He dreamt that he was once again a Lord of a tribe living by the side of the Niger river in Africa. He had been the kung of a tribe, and was living at the top of a mountain. On one occasion, he had gone forth for a battle. His children and wife had stood around him, and the former had embraced his neck and kissed him. That was the last scene of happiness and freedom in his life. Soon after he had been captured and taken to America as a slave. When he dreamt of that scene, a tear fell down from his eye, though he asleep. Longfellow tells that the Negroes too have human feelings and must not be treated like animals. Thus it was a highly moving scene to rouse the sympathy of white men for the Africans. 

3. How does Longfellow show the great and noble characters of the Africans Negroes in the poem?
Ans: Longfellow points out that many of the Negroes who had been enslaved by the Americans might have been 'noble' persons in their own land. The slave whose last dream is narrated in the poem, was one such person. He was a king of a tribe and a brave warrior too. Just before being captured, he had gone forth for battle with another tribe. He rode towards the enemy camp on a horse along the bank of the Niger at great speed. The reins were made of gold. He had a bright sword hanging from his waist. It made like a war-like noise as he galloped along. The rider rode on with a great spirit. It shows that the slave was not inferior to his white masters in any way, though the fates had made a slave of him. Longfellow thus asks his countrymen not to look down on the Africans. They were noble warriors in their own way.

4. How does Longfellow present the African background in his poem, "The Slave's Dream"?
Ans : Longfellow creates a truly African background while describing the dream of a king who had been enslaved and taken to America. He had been a good warrior and went out on his horse to fight with his enemies. The long-necked and blood-red-coloured flamingo birds were flying infront of him, and they appeared to form his red flag. He rode throughout the day and at last came to a spot from where he was able to see the Caffre huts. The Caffre were a tribe of the Bantus or Zulus of Africa. Probably they were his enemies. They were living near the sea and the king was able to see the ocean rise to view. During that night he heard the roar of the lion and the screaming ocean the hyenas in the forest. He also heard the noise made by the river-horse or hippopotamus which lives in the river waters. That was the last occasion when the African was free.

5. What was Longfellow's views on slavery expressed in the poem, "The Slave's Dream"?

Ans: The problem of slavery has been a running sore in the social and political life of America. Africans were captured in their native country and shipped by force to America to work as slaves. Many thinking and feeling Americans revolted against the idea of slavery. The Negro question led to the Civil War under Abraham Lincoln. Longfellow was one of the enlightened men who tried his best to rouse the conscience of his countrymen against 'man's inhumanity to man'. The poem, "The Slave's Dream" was written by him to show that the Africans were in no way inferior to the Americans who treated them worse than animals. They, too, had feelings, had wives and children whom they loved and who loved them. Above all, they too had their love of freedom and dignity. 

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