The poem “A River” is written by A.K. Ramanujan. In this poem, the poet has compared and contrasted the attitudes of the old poets and those of the new poets to human suffering. He has come to the conclusion that both the groups of the poets are indifferent to human sorrow and suffering. Their poetry dose not reflects the miseries of the human beings. He has proved this point in the present poem.
The river Vaikai on whose bank the historic city of Madurai stands has been mentioned in the poems of many poets, both past and present. The river is intimately associated with the life and culture of the Tamil people. The peculiar thing, which appeals to the poets, is that the river presents two different spectacles in two different season. It is completely dry in summer and flooded in full in the rainy season.
In this poem, the poet refers to the river Vaikai which flows through the city of Madurai. The word Madurai means a “sweet city”. It is a Tamil word. As a matter of fact, this city is the center of Tamil culture and learning. It is also a holy city full of temples including the famous Minakshee temple. The poets have written many poems on the temples and the river. In the present poem, A.K. Ramanujan deals with the river.
In the poem “A River”, we get two pictures based upon two different kinds of description. In the summer, the river is almost empty. Only a very thin stream of water flows. So the sand ribs on the bed of the river are visible. The stones that lie on the bed of the river also exposed to view. The portion of the river under the bridge has also been described. We get a vivid picture of the river in the summer season.
There is also the picture of the river in the rainy season. Generally, all kinds of poets have written about it in their poems.
During the rainy season when the floods crone the people observe it very anxiously. They remember the rising of the river inch by inch from time to time. They remember how the stone steps of the bathing place are submerged one by one.
They see how three village houses were damaged and carried off by the floods. They now how two cows named Brinda and Gopi were carried away. They also know how a pregnant woman was also drowned in the river during the flood. Both the old and new poets have mentioned these things in their poems. But the way they have described these things in their poems shows that they were not much alive to or sympathetic with human suffering.
They did not mention the name of the woman who was carrying twins. Before their birth, she was drowned in the flooded river. At the time of drowning, most probably the twins must have kicked the sides of her womb. She must have got much pain out of this. But both the new poets and old poets did not refer to all these miseries of the woman in their poetic creations.
This becomes ultimately clear that they are not sympathetic with suffering human beings. They are totally callous and indifferent. This kind of attitude makes their poetry weak and unappealing, dry and cheerless.
The tone of the poem is based on sarcasm and irony. The structure of the poem has been in paragraphs and single lines. There are four longer verse paragraphs and a shorter one in the beginning. There are only two single isolated lines. This kind of structural arrangement contributes to the effect of irony. It also helps to grasp the main points clearly. Secondly, a word can be said about the language used in the poem. It is very simple on account of which the thought sequence of the poem is presented unmistakably and clearly.