Simplicity is Power: An Analysis of the Poem “When Autumn Came” by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
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Being in a country where there are only two seasons, we can only rely on images of winter, spring, or autumn on postcards, movies or television shows. Through these aids, we see the beauty these seasons bring, maybe to the point that we envy those people experiencing it first hand. Spring and autumn, the seasons between summer and winter, are seasons when most noticeable transformation takes place. The most obvious one is the change of temperature, swinging from extreme coldness to extreme heat or vice versa. Spring is perceived as a season of life – the season when flowers start to bloom, birds start to tweet – while autumn or fall is seen as a season of decay – leaves turns to gold, trees become bare. However, autumn is never seen as a “decaying” season in postcards.
In fact, “autumn is beauty” for photographers. The magic of combining the colors gold, red, orange and yellow creates a dazzling effect to the image of autumn. Autumn is deprived from its “decay” theme and is given life by people through seeing this season as a season of beauty. However, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, a Pakistani writer, brings back the reality, that autumn is indeed a season, not of beauty, but of decay and grief. His choice of words (choosing words with negative connotations) makes his piece a very successful narration of what autumn really is.
“This is the way that autumn came to the trees,” is how Faiz starts the poem. This line already gives away the time the narration takes place – the end of autumn or the start of winter – through the shift of tenses, from present to past (“is” to “came”). In fact, the shift in the verb tenses throughout the play guides the readers on how the different scenes are arranged. In the next 4 lines, the narrator speaks of the transformation the trees undergo during autumn. Unlike saying “the trees lose their leaves” in place of lines 2 and 3, Faiz uses the words “stripped” and “naked” to increase the magnitude of the readers’ emotions. It implies grief and horror, especially the phrase “stripped them down to the skin.” The use of the word “hearts” in the 4th line further exaggerates the graveness of what autumn brings to the trees (the heart, which is the most vital organ of a human being, is used as a metaphor for leaves).
Man, as well as different animals, enter the scene with the lines “Anyone could trample them out of shape/ undisturbed by a single moan of protest.” These lines show the helplessness of the trees during autumn. The leaves of the trees can not help but fall onto the ground. And in return, human beings or animals do not even notice that they are walking on these withered leaves. The trees, unfortunately, can not do anything but look at its leaves, its heart, being stepped on by different beings.
Birds, on the other hand, are also given human attributes in lines 8-12. Faiz’s way to describe birds (“birds that herald dreams”) in line 8 helps to increase the dramatic situation in lines 9-12. He describes the birds as the ones carrying dreams, but they are “exiled from their song”! It was further exaggerated in the next line, “each voice torn out of its throat.” The use of voice, throat, and song parallels the plea in the last line of the poem.
After describing how autumn comes to the trees and birds, the narrator pleads to the God of May in lines 13 to 18. He pleads to the God of May since it symbolizes life and renewal (spring is on May). This further supports the claim that the narration happens during winter – the “decaying” (autumn) is over, but the trees are not “revitalized” yet (which happens during spring). Also, pleading to a God creates a sense of urgency – the need to do something about it quickly. This urgency is already foreshadowed through the severity of the descriptive words found in the first and second stanzas.