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The poem The Geography Lesson is written by Zulfikar Ghose – a famous poet and novelist who was born in India before independence. After independence, he migrated to Pakistan and now he is settled in the USA.
The Geography Lesson is a 24-lined single stanza poem that does not have any rhyme scheme. In the poem, the poet talks about three important things – first how everything looks from the sky, second how civilization was established and the reason behind the unorganized settlement, and third his question to himself why people hate each other.
Let us discuss the detailed summary of this poem.
When the jet sprang into the sky....
.....When the jet sprang into the sky.
The poet says when the jet sprang (the second form of spring. Here it means lifted off) into the sky, it was clear i.e. the poet understood why the city had developed the way it had. because everything looked so small that a mile seemed to be like six inches. (Everything looks small from above).
It becomes inevitable (i.e. certain) that everything developed unplanned, without style and without any principle of an organization on the ground (earth). The poet repeats the first line: When the jet sprang into the sky i.e. he saw all this when the jet (airplane) was in the air.
When the jet reached ten thousand feet....
.....When the jet reached ten thousand feet.
In the second part, the poet says that when the plane reached ten thousand feet in the sky the poet came to know why the cities of countries are located near the rivers and also the valleys are so populated. Next, the poet provides the logic of geography which is clearly delineated (i.e. depicted) i.e. the reason that made the people settle in an unorganized way.
According to him, land and water which are the lifeline and the reason for our survival attracted early humans. The land here refers to the green land on which we cultivate food and make shelter.
Like the previous stanza, the poet repeats the line When the jet (airplane) reached ten thousand feet to tell that he came to know about all this only when the airplane was ten thousand feet up in the sky and he could see land and water.
When the jet rose six miles high....
.....From that height, it was not clear why.
In the third part, the poet says that when the airplane was at the height of around six miles, it became clear that the earth is round and that it has more sea (here it means water) than land. According to him, he could not understand why people hate each other on earth, why we build walls (here it means borders) across cities (here it means countries) and kill each other. At such a height, the poet sees single earth and wonders why people are divided. He could not understand.