Enterprise by Nissim Ezekiel

Critical Appreciation And Summary of the Poem Enterprise by Nissim Ezekiel

Enterprise by Nissim Ezekiel

Critical Appreciation: Enterprise by Nissim Ezekiel


Enterprise by Nissim Ezekiel : This poem Enterprise appeared in Nissim Ezekiel’s fourth volume of poems which was first published in 1960 and, in its second edition, in 1965, under the heading “The Unfinished Man”. Here we have an allegorical poem, that is, a poem which, apart from its surface meaning, has a meaning below the surface. R. Parthasarthy, himself a poet, says that Ezekiel’s poetry is the work of a keen, analytical mind trying to explore, and communicate, on a personal level, feelings of loss and deprivation.

Nissim Ezekiel himself said that scores of his poems were written for his personal, therapeutic purposes (that is, for purposes of giving an outlet to his morbid feelings and unpleasant thoughts in order to find relief and comfort). One such poem is Enterprise. In this poem a situation is examined with ironic detachment in the hope that it would offer the writer with a release for his pent-up feelings.

Human Predicament in this World:

The poem entitled “Enterprise” shows Nissim Ezekiel as a reflective, meditative, and philosophical poet who is not only interested in the outward life of human beings but also in their inner states. In other words, this poem shows that Ezekiel is interested not only in depicting the externals of human life but also probing the surface in order to find some inner meaning in human life. This poem is an attempt on Ezekiel’s part to depict what he would, in a certain mood, think the human situation to be, or the predicament in which human beings find themselves placed by the very nature of their existence on this earth.

An Allegorical Poem Depicting the Failure of Great Causes:

“Enterprise” is an allegory. A group of human beings join together to pursue a lofty and uplifting enterprise or project. They start with great zest, great courage, and great hope. But, after some initial signs of success, they begin to falter because of the divisions which arise among them and which begin to impede their progress. There are defections and there are clashes of opinion. Disunited because of the egoism of many of them, they eventually reap only disappointment when the whole enterprise collapses.

The result is only frustration. Thus the basic idea behind the poem is that man is doomed to failure in the pursuit of his noble aspirations and goals because human nature is such that it retards man’s progress, as much as it stimulates man’s efforts to achieve his goal.

A Pessimistic but Realistic Poem: Enterprise by Nissim Ezekiel

“Enterprise” is a pessimistic poem; and it fully reveals to us one important aspect of Nissim Ezekiel’s poetic genius. Despondency or melancholy is the dominant note of many of Ezekiel’s poems; and Enterprise belongs to this category. However, the pessimism here is by no means exaggerated or unrealistic. Nobody would disagree with the thesis which Ezekiel has put forward in this poem.

Nobody can deny that there is a class of human beings who have high aspirations but who fail to achieve the fulfilment of their yearning because of the limitations and weaknesses of human nature. Here, then, is a poem, with a message for us or a poem which confirms what we ourselves might have been thinking. The pleasure of reading this poem lies in its realism and its confirmation of our own notions about life, notions which were vague before, but which become clear and distinct after we have gone through this poem.

Style of the Poem: Enterprise by Nissim Ezekiel

The poem shows, as every other poem by Ezekiel does, the writer’s command of the English language and his capacity to express his ideas in clear and lucid language. There is no obscurity in this poem, though the veiled meaning of the lines may be difficult to understand for the average reader without outside help. There is a grace about Ezekiel’s style of writing: and there is a certain charm about the manner in which he constructs his lines and his stanzas. This poem has a compact structure. Each stanza here consists of five lines with the following rhyme-scheme in each stanza: ab ab a; and the poem has its own rhythm and its music, even apart from the rhyme. The imagery, or whatever of it there is in the poem, is vivid. Here are some of the vivid pictures:

(1) The sun beat down to match our rage
(2) Observed and put down copious notes
On things the peasants sold and bought
The way of serpents and of goats
(3) A straggling crowd of little hope
(4) Deprived of common needs like soap.
Some were broken, some merely bent. 

The last line of the poem reads like an epigram

Home is where we have to gather grace. 

This last line is somewhat cryptic but it certainly has an aphoristic quality about it.

Summary of the Poem: Enterprise by Nissim Ezekiel

Setting out on a Sacred Journey:

A group of men, including, of course, the poet (as is evident from the use of the first person pronoun “we”) set out on a pilgrimage. They have a noble purpose behind their enterprise of undertaking this sacred journey which seems to hold out no difficulties or hurdles in their way. But very soon after having travelled some distance, they begin to find the journey to be somewhat unproductive and definitely laborious, with the sun scorching them with its heat.

Even so, the travellers are able to continue the journey courageously and hopefully, taking down plentiful notes and recording their observations. They observe, and write down, what the peasants were selling and buying; and they similarly observe and record the behaviour of animals like serpents and goats whom they see on the way. They observe and write down what they witness in the three cities where a seer or a wise man had delivered religious discourses to the people.

Differences among the Travellers:

But then differences arise among the travellers as to how to cross a sandy tract which they come across. At this point one of them, who has the gift of writing excellent prose, develops such differences with the others that he leaves them. He was the best man in the whole group; means a deep disappointment and dismay for the remaining ones.

Another Stage in the Adventurous:

Journey Another stage in the adventurous journey is reached when the travellers are attacked, not once, but twice, and when they lose their way. A section of the group claims the freedom of action and expresses wish to leave the group. The poet tries to pray for the success of their mission, while the leader of the group says that they are nearing the sea.

The members of the group notice nothing remarkable as they go onwards. But now they are only a small crowd of persons having no hope. They do not pay any heed even to the thunder which had certain significance but which has now become meaningless to them. They are all feeling exhausted by the journey, and some of them cannot even stand erect. They do not even have some of the necessities of life like soap.

Ending of the Journey in Dismay and Disappointment:

At last, they reach their destination. But now they do not even know the purpose which has taken them there. The journey has brought only dismay and disappointment to each one of them, and their faces bear clear signs of their bewilderment. They feel that their deeds were neither heroic nor unusual in any way. Then they come to the conclusion that home is the only place where they could enjoy any grace (or any serenity or any peace of mind).

 Read it also:  Summary of the Poem Philosophy

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