Are You Still Playing Your Flute?

SYNOPSIS

The persona is thinking of someone she was close to and who plays the flute. She longs to hear the wonderful soothing music that had touched her heart a long time ago. She wonders if he is still playing his flute in their village that is now empty and quiet. She feels troubled that she should be thinking of him and her past while people around her are suffering and her world is changing.

FIGURATIVE MEANING

Stanza 1:

In life, we sometimes have to change our way of life due to work or family circumstances. From a lifestyle filled with values and traditions like in the village, we may find ourselves embracing a totally different lifestyle in towns. However, we may sometimes long for our previous life with its unforgettable moments.

Stanza 2:

We may wonder if the values and traditions we believed in and practised are still observed in our former villagers. Many people have migrated to towns or adopted an urban way of life where such traditions may not be so well-ingrained. In these places, life is fast paced and they do not have the time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life they used to.

Stanza 3:

These people may think back to their days in the rural areas with guilt. Traditions and the old values may seem trivial compared to their present circumstances. There are economic, political and social problems to be faced. Some of these problems have become personal as they affect people who are close to them.

THEMES

  • Values and traditions – Values and traditions have an important role in our life. They teach us to live correctly and to hold on to our principles in life. We learn to value life, family and friends. A society without values and traditions is colourless and loses its direction.
  • Changes in life – Nothing stays the same forever and that includes life. Life changes over time. These changes affect every aspect of our lives and may have positive andnegative consequences.
  • Family commitments – Everyone has family commitments, whether it is to our immediate family members or extended family members. Be aware of these commitments as they bind a family together.
  • Priorities in life – There are important and unimportant things in life. Learn to differentiate them and make plans accordingly.
  • Enjoying the simple pleasure of life – Nature surrounds us and the beauty of nature offers us the simple pleasures of life. The rising sun, the moon and stars, the rainfall and dew are some of the pleasures that nature offers. Enjoy them and enjoy life.
  • Passionate about one’s interest – When we are really interested in a hobby, we will become passionate about it. It helps us to mature as this passion helps us to stay focused. We learn to be creative too. But, we should not let this passion become an obsession.

MORAL VALUES

  • We should learn to appreciate the values and traditions of society and family. They give us balance in life and help us to differentiate between the good and the bad.
  • We face changes in life every day. Learn to accept changes but only if they are for the good of society. If they are beneficial, work around them for the general good.
  • Our family is the most important thing in our life. We should put their interest and safety first before anything else. Show consideration for one’s duties within the home and carry out family commitments responsibly.
  • We should know our priorities in life and be aware of them at all times. Don’t get so taken in by our interests that we forget our priorities.
  • Passion for interests should should not be at expense of family happiness. There is a time for work and a time for play.

POINT OF VIEW

  • The poem is the first point of view – the persona uses the pronoun ‘I’ and ‘my’
  • The persona is reflecting on her past and feeling uneasy about the present.

LANGUAGE AND STLYE

  • Language – simple and easy to understand
  • Play of words to add interest
  • Style – clear, descriptive and inquiring

TONE, MOOD AND ATMOSPHERE

  • Sombre – talks about her longing for something she cannot have anymore
  • Appreciative and regretful for loss of simple pleasures of life
  • Mood of hopelesness and loss – does not like her present situation

POETIC DEVICES

  • Imagery – e.g. ‘blown by the wind’, ‘depth of my heart’
  • Alliteration – e.g. ‘fragrance of flowers’’ dew drops’
  • Symbol – e.g. ‘flute’, ‘song’
  • Repetition – e.g. ‘Are you still playing your flute?’
  • Assonance – ‘sick rice filed’
  • Figurative Language – Metaphor e.g. ‘The melody concealed in the slime hollow of bamboo – Personification e.g. ‘sick rice field’

LITERARY DEVICES

Personification:

– sick rice filed – the rice field is personified as a human who is not feeling well                                       

– this world is …bleeding – earth is personified as being wounded

Symbol:
– flute – symbolises a thing of the past, something tradition                                                                    

– song – symbolises the simple pleasure of life

Repetition:                                                                                                                                       

– ‘Are you still playing your flute?’ – repeated at the beginning of all three stanzas to reinforce the emotion behind the question and to create a dramatic effect.

Rhetorical question:                                                                                                                         

– Are you still playing your flute? – the persona asks a question to which she does not expect a reply.


Metaphor:                                                                                                                                            

– ‘the melody concealed in the slim hollow of the bamboo’ : The song seems to be hidden in the bamboo when it is actually coming out from the playing of the flute.                                                      

– ‘the world is too old and bleeding’: The world seems to have aged due to war and the sufferings caused by it.

Imagery:                                                                                                                                         

a) imagery of sight:                                                                                                                                        

 – ‘so quiet and deserted’: This gives a clear picture of a lonely village with hardly anyone around.           

– ‘slaughtered mercilessly’: Many lives were lost in the war.                                                                 

b) imagery of feelings:                                                                                                                         

– ‘depth of my heart’: The persona feels deeply and wants to hear the song played by the flautist.          

– ‘longing for your song’: The persona has a deep desire to hear songs.                                                      

c) imagery of touch:                                                                                                                            

– ‘collecting dew drops’ – someone is putting their hands together to collect dew drops to feel the water 

d) imagery of smell:                                                                                                                             

– ‘enjoying the fragrance of flowers’: The flowers are emitting fragrant scent.                                        

e) imagery of sound:                                                                                                                             

– ‘playing your flute’ – The music comes from the flute.                                                                                

– ‘blown by the wind’ – The sound of wind and music


Exercise

 ARE YOU STILL PLAYING YOUR FLUTE- By Zurinah Hassan

Stanza 1

Are you still playing your flute?

When there is hardly time for our love

I am feeling guilty

To be longing for your song

The melody concealed in the slim hollow of the bamboo

Uncovered by the breath of an artist

Composed by his fingers

Blown by the wind

To the depth of my heart

Practice

1. What is the meaning of this line, there is hardly time for our love? (1mark)

2. What does the word  ‘artist’ in line 6 refers to ? (1mark)

3. Which line suggests the man playing the flute is talented? (1mark)

4.Do you think the poet still remember the past? Why? (2marks

Stanza 2

Are you still playing your flute?

In the village so quiet and deserted

Amidst the sick rice field

While here it has become a luxury

To spend time watching the rain

Gazing at the evening rays

Collecting dew drops

Or enjoying the fragrance of flowers

Practice

1. What are the activities the persona enjoys doing? (2marks)

2. What does the word ‘here’ refer to? (1mark)

3. Do you think life in the village has not changed? Why? (2marks)

Stanza 3

Are you still playing your flute?

The more it disturbs my conscience

to be thinking of you

in the hazard of you

my ‘younger brothers’ unemployed and desperate

my people disunited by politics

my friend slaughtered mercilessly

this world is too old and bleeding

Practice

1. The phrase ‘younger brothers’ refers to (1mark)

2. What is one of the problems faced by the people? (1mark)

3. Which line in this stanza explains the existence of violence? (1mark)

4. Do you think that the situation would get better? Why? (2marks)

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