The poem Philosophy by Nissim Ezekiel talks about Philosophy and Poetry. The poet is of the views that Philosophy and science have certain limitations.
They fail beyond a certain limit and it is the poetry which takes over these two disciplines. The poem has four stanzas having five lines each. The rhyme scheme of the poem is AABBA.
Philosophy Poem Summary
The poet says that there is a place to which he often goes. He never plans to go but is driven by the flow of his thoughts and imaginations that take him there. The place described is not another city or world but the poet’s own imaginations.
He goes away from all existence i.e. the world and worldly things to a place which is quite clear and without the warmth of human emotions and feelings. The will of the flow of thoughts is uncontrolled i.e. the poet cannot control it but has to go by it.
In the last line, the poet talks about mills of God which are never slow. In literary terms, God means the creator. In thoughts, the mind is the creator of productive ideas and hence God here refers to the mind and mills are its production houses.
Thus according to the poet, in this place, the creation of the ideas is never slow. The mind keeps creating new ideas all the time. These ideas cannot be controlled or regulated by the poet.
The landscape of that imaginary place appears to contain each and everything that exists on earth and it dissolves everything to show a perfect mud or mixture of everything.
Afterwards, a million stars vanish away. And the poet thinks of each historic passion (meaning emotions, here sorrowful) as a blink that the sad eye of time takes. Time here is personified. The poet wants to say that thousand of sorrows and griefs of the past appear before him in a blink.
The poet says that in that place, deep in the thoughts, though there is clarity (as discussed in stanza 1), yet some residues of the meanings still remain behind because there are some myths were are quite dark which flow through the pain towards the final formula of light i.e. final meaning in philosophy.
The lines are quite complicated. The poet simply wants to say that in Philosophy we cannot understand everything. There are limitations and problems. Even in spite of having clarity, we still have some myths in our pains which make the meaning unclear.
This is why he rejects this clarity of sight i.e. quest for the meaning in Philosophy. What cannot be explained, do not explain. The line simply means that if the meaning is not clear, we should not always keep looking into it. Rather give up and don’t try to explain it again.
Having discussed about Philosophy and its limitations, he discusses the poetry and its superiority over the Philosophy. According to the poet, the mundane language of the senses sings its own interpretations.
Mundane means common. The line means that the language of senses tells about everything by itself. It doesn’t rely on clarity like Philosophy and rather depends on human feelings.
Common things become common because of human feelings and love for them. They become arguments for themselves and would die if they try to find truth and meanings in themselves.