‘The Voice of the Mountain’ by Mamang Dai voices the unheard words of the mountain, the guardian spirit of the land of wonders. It’s a poem that has a universal approach to finding the meaning of the world as well as that of life. The mountain is a symbol of the spirit that guides humanity, redefines the unknown, and last but not least makes one peaceful. Moreover, the use of imagery and symbolism in the poem makes this poem a wonderful adventure. ‘The Voice of the Mountain’ is nothing but the macrocosmic representation of nature’s egalitarianism.
‘The Voice of the Mountain’ by Mamang Dai presents the worldview seen from the eyes of the ancient mountain. In this poem, the speaker is none other than the mountain itself which finds its utterance in the poetic words. It describes what it has been experiencing throughout. Within it, there are different personalities. One is of an old man that gets rejuvenated with the winds that soothe. The mountain, being a part of nature, contains everything. Be it a desert, or the rain, each element of nature is there inside its heart. Moreover, there is a lady within it, lost due to the translation of time. However, in the last stanza, it seems that the poet is sitting in the mind of the mountain and utters what the mountain suggested to her.
You can read the full poem here.
‘The Voice of the Mountain’ by Mamang Dai consists of nine stanzas. The line-count of each stanza isn’t regular. It moves how nature moves without predictability or precision. There is an organic environment just like one can find in nature. The first-person persona present in the poem gives it the quality of a spontaneous lyric poem. Moreover, like an ode, the poet meditates on a single theme. It is the voice of the poem and how it expresses itself through the words of humans. However, there isn’t any specific rhyme scheme in the poem. The poet creates an internal rhythm in the text for maintaining the flow of the poem. The metrical composition of the poem is also irregular. One can find the use of spondee, pyrrhic, iambic feet, and anapestic feet in this poem.
‘The Voice of the Mountain’ by Mamang Dai contains several literary devices. Likewise, in the first stanza, there is a personification and epanaphora. In the second stanza, there is a metaphor in “the colour drains from heaven”. Here, the poet compares reflection to draining water or color. Moreover, in “chapters of the world”, there is a metaphor for rivers. In the following stanza, “land of rivers” is a metonym for the plains of India. Along with that, there is an antithesis in “We live in territories forever ancient and new”. Moreover, in the fifth stanza, there are several metaphors. Apart from that, the poet uses alliteration in “clutch and cling” and “these things”. And, she uses palilogy in “I know, I know these things” and “I know a cloud is a cloud is a cloud”. Such repetition is meant for the sake of emphasizing the ideas present in the lines.
In the following stanzas, there is an epigram in “Peace is falsity”. The lines, “In the end the universe yields nothing/ except a dream of permanence” contain a paradox. Moreover, “dream of permanence” is a metaphor. However, the poet uses irony in the phrase, “the myth of time”. It is a metaphor too.
Analysis, Stanza by Stanza
From where I sit on the high platform
criss-crossing the big river.
‘The Voice of the Mountain’ by Mamang Dai talks about the mountain in the first stanza. The mountain being at a higher platform visualizes everything like God. The mountain says that he can see the ferry lights that cross the big river below. As it is at a distance, the movement of the ferry appears as the “criss-crossing” light works on the river. The poet uses synecdoche in the “ferry lights” and the variety used here is “part for the whole”.
I know the towns, the estuary mouth.
I can outline the chapters of the world.
‘The Voice of the Mountain’ by Mamang Dai the mountain says he knows about the towns and estuary of the rivers. His omniscient view of the landscape makes him appear like the almighty. Moreover, the mountain point at the sea and says he can see the colors of the sky getting reflected on the seawater. Here, he metaphorically outlines the chapters of the world. It might be a reference to the rivers. The metaphor can also refer to the past episodes that the sea observed as it is also ancient like the mountain. Collectively, they have watched many things that happened in the past.
The other day a young man arrived from the village.
and as we speak in changing languages.
‘The Voice of the Mountain’ by Mamang Dai talks about a young man. He brought a fish as an offering to the spirit of the mountain as he couldn’t speak. The person thought if the mountain took pity on him, he would grant his voice back. According to the mountain, such acts of pleasing him are repeated. Moreover, he says as the territories are forever ancient as well as new, there is always a shift. However, the essence remains the same at the end.
I, also, leave my spear leaning by the tree
and try to make a sign.
In this stanza of ‘The Voice of the Mountain’ by Mamang Dai, the second speaker remarks, like the person who believed in the god-like qualities of the mountain, the speaker also makes a sign of reverence when the mountain comes in the sight. It seems that the second speaker is the poet herself. Through this section, she participates in the dramatic monologue of the mountain.
I am an old man sipping the breeze
that is forever young.
Instructed with history and miracles.
‘The Voice of the Mountain’ by Mamang Dai the poet again comes to the soliloquy of the mountain. The mountain says he is like an old man who is sipping the forever young breeze to keep his soul fresh. In this section, the poet uses the breeze as a symbol of youthfulness and vigor. Moreover, the mountain says it is the macrocosm of the universe. Within his voice, one can hear the sea waves, and the wind circling the mountain peak. Whereas the language of humans changes gradually, the voice of the mountain doesn’t change. It’s eternal.
According to the poet, it is like the “chance syllable” that orders the world. It is the voice of the creator. In the mountain’s ancient language one can find the history and miracles of mankind. Through this reference, the poet associates the concept of the “universal language” about which Paulo Coelho has talked about in ‘The Alchemist’.
I am the desert and the rain.
The wild bird that sits in the west.
A cloud is this uncertain pulse
that sits over my heart.
Thereafter, in the sixth stanza of ‘The Voice of the Mountain’ by Mamang Dai, the mountain asserts his universality. He says he has the aridity of the desert and the moisture of the monsoon. The mountain even finds its manifestation in a bird that lives in the west. Several episodes of the past reiterate their importance through the voice of the mountain. Each particle of life that clutch and cling for thousands of years, was nothing but the echo of the mountainous spirit.
Thereafter, the mountain, like an old man who recollects his thoughts while speaking, says “I know” twice to emphasize his wisdom and experience. There is a gift from Mamang Dai to the readers in this simile, “as rocks know, burning in the sun’s embrace,/ about clouds, and sudden rain”. As for the rocks, the mountain knows about every little thing that occurs in the world.
In the following line, there is a marvelous use of the pun. The mountain says he knows a “cloud” is a “cloud”. Here, the “cloud” symbolizes uncertainty and pessimism. The poet associates both of the ideas in this repetition. However, in the last two lines of this stanza, the mountain refers to the clouds that embrace its heart. Here, the “clouds” symbolize grievous thoughts.
In the end the universe yields nothing
A moment of rest comes after long combat:
In the seventh stanza of ‘The Voice of the Mountain’, Mamang Dai refers to the hopelessness at the end of the universe. What remains, is a dream of permanence. This dream is what keeps every living embodiments moving with the spirit of the world. Thereafter, the poet uses a paradoxical affirmation that “Peace is falsity” or daydream. Only “a moment of rest” comes after long combat. Whereas, the war of life continues. There are only pauses in the sentence of the universe. To live in peace is to live in an illusion.
From the east the warrior returns
who survives, with happiness to carry on.
In the eighth stanza of ‘The Voice of the Mountain’ by Mamang Dai, the first two lines are connected using enjambment with the idea of the last stanza. Here, the poet refers to the warrior who returns with the “blood of peonies”. Such a contrasting image refers to the coexistence of struggle and beauty. Thereafter, the mountain says that his child-like spirit died at that edge of the world where he stands firmly. Moreover, the poet creates another contrast in the following lines. Here, she refers to the starlit sky and the scorching summer. Moreover, the mountain says he was once a woman but lost in the translation of time. However, he still survives in eternal happiness.
I am the breath that opens the mouth of the canyon,
I am the sleep in the mind of the mountain.
In the last stanza of ‘The Voice of the Mountain’, the mountain refers to its magnanimity. He creates a passage for the canyon to breathe. Moreover, he is like the sunlight on the tip of trees. Thereafter, he refers to the narrow gorge where the wind is always in haste. He is also there. Apart from that, the mountain is a place where memory escapes from one’s mind. Here, the “myth of time” doesn’t work. One loses the track of time as if it halts near the mountain in awe. At last, the poetic persona says she is the sleep that exists in the mind of the mountain. In this way, the poet presents her similarity with the spirit of the mountain.
About Mamang Dai
Mamang Dai was born on 23 February 1957. She is an Indian poet, novelist, and Journalist based in Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh. Her first novel “The Legends of Pensam” was published in 2006. Some of her famous poetry collections are “River Poems” (2004), “The Balm of Time” (2008), “Hambreelmai’s Loom” (2014), and Midsummer Survival Lyrics (2014). For her contribution to Indian literature, she received Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award of India, in 2011. Moreover, she received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2017 for her novel “The Black Hill”.
Like ‘The Voice of the Mountain’ by Mamang Dai, the following poems present similar kinds of themes involving mountains.
- Mountain Life by Henrik Johan Ibsen – Describes a mountain paradise that is isolated from the outside world.
- The Mountain And The Squirrel by Ralph Waldo Emerson – It’s one of the best Ralph Waldo Emerson poems, the mountain and the squirrel quarrel about their strengths and weaknesses.
- Ode to Thread by Pablo Neruda – Contains several metaphorical references to the mountain.
- Far over the misty mountains cold by J.R.R. Tolkien – In this one of the best J.R.R. Tolkien poems, there is a series of images describing the importance of the lonely mountain.
You can read about 10 of the Best Nature Poems here.