About the poet
Nissim Ezekiel was an Indian Jewish poet. He won the Sahitya Academi Award in 1982 for his Poetry collection Latter-Day Psalms. “Night of the Scorpion“, “Minority Poem”, “Philosophy”, “Island” are some of his well-known poems.
The theme of the poem “Enterprise” is a narrative of a group of pilgrims. In the poem “Enterprise” the pilgrims go on a long tiring journey, confront many obstacles on the way and finally realize something profound.
Enterprise by Nissim Ezekiel- Summary and analysis
The poet along with other pilgrims set off together but we don’t know where they were exactly going. At the initial stage of the pilgrimage they were exalted, and in front of their excitement, their burdens seemed light. The second stage started, obstacles started to appear on their path as the sun showed its rage on them.
In the beginning, we come to know that it is a journey to find the grace of God. The sun symbolizes the harshness of nature, tried to bring their morale down by its excruciating heat. However, it failed to suppress their spirit.
The poet thought that everything was going well. They turned around and noted down some trivial things happening around them such as what the peasants were selling, buying and the ways of snakes and goats, and an account of the three cities where a hermit had taught to the people.
They were distracted from their motif as they started to pay attention to minor things. They focused was on the cities rather on the teaching of the sage.
Though the journey was going smoothly, however differences in terms of opinion between them arose. Their differences arose over the issue of crossing a desert patch. As a result the most talented friend, the one who wrote the most stylish prose, departed the group and followed his own path. Thereafter a shadow falls on the group of pilgrims.
The differences between the pilgrims arose and consequently, they lost their unity. They fought over the path, which could be resolved through understanding between themselves. Their argument has become more than their goal. Even the most educated one shows no sign of understanding, his leaving of the group is a display of his ego, lack of understanding. After the departure of one friend, uncertainty, lack of enthusiasm hovers over them.
In the consecutive stage, the group was attacked on their way and As a result, they lost their way. A section of the group wanted to leave the group. Amidst the chaos, the poet prayed.
The enthusiasm among some pilgrims lost. Therefore they demanded their freedom to leave the group. The leader possibly in order to hold them together told that he smelt the sea which suggested that they were nearby the destination.
Soon leader was proved wrong as they did not see anything. They have become hopeless. They became so much exhausted that they were not in a condition to grasp the meaning of thunder, and the situation became so worse that they were deprived of common needs. As an impact of the time of distress, some were lost the zeal and some bent down out of tiredness.
The hard time made them weak, both physically and mentally. Saddened by the experience, they ignored the thunder, most of them were broken.
Finally, after undergoing a lot of difficulties the group reached the destination but there was no joy in them. They wondered why they had visited the place. The journey seemed to have no meaning at all. The hardship of the trip had darkened their faces. After reaching there, they found out that their achievement was neither extraordinary nor rare. Therefore the poet realizes “Home is where we have to gather grace.”
This last stage can be compared with the first stage. The state of mind of the pilgrims in the beginning and in the end was contradictory. The enthusiasm that had at the beginning of the journey for which their burdens seemed light has now faded away. They are broken in spirit and could hardly stand on their own. This enthusiastic group had become “a straggling group of little hope.” Their excited face turned into “darkened faces”.
Towards the end, it seems the pilgrims understood the futility of undertaking such a tiresome journey. Though the language of the poem “Enterprise” is simple, nevertheless it is difficult to comprehend. Critics have different opinions regarding the meaning particularly the last line of the poem. One possible interpretation could be that this poem is a social satire at those pilgrims who go outside to find grace.
Nissim Ezekiel has pointed out that there is no need to undertake such an arduous journey or one need not walk to the distant places for the grace of God rather he can do virtuous things right at home. The pilgrims did not have that much religious fervor. Changing their nature from within was more important than the pilgrimage. One can seek solace and attain grace by doing the right things in the right direction and for that one does not travel far. This is the central message of the poem “Enterprise” “Home is where we have to gather grace”.
Structure of Enterprise
The poem consists of six stanzas having five lines each. The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABABA and it is in iambic tetrameter.
- Mahanta, Pona, et al., editors. Poems Old and New. Macmillan, 2011, pp. 405-406.
- Naik, M.K. A History of Indian English Liteature. Sahitya Akademi, pp. 203, 205.
- Nannaparaju, Pratima. “Nissim Ezekiel: An Approach & Analysis.“ International Journal on English Language and Literature, vol 1, issue 1, 2013.