Evening Scene From My Table by Vikram Seth

‘Evening Scene From My Table’ by Vikram Seth is a four stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a consistent rhyme scheme that follows the pattern of ABAB CDCD, and so on, changing end sounds as the poet saw fit. The meter of the text is also very consistent. The lines contain four sets of two beats per line, but the stresses vary throughout.

 

Poetic Techniques

Seth uses a number of poetic techniques within ‘Evening Scene From My Table’. These include repetition, seen through anaphora and alliteration, as well as enjambment. Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. For example, “birds” and “beer” in line four of the third stanza. 

The poet also makes use of anaphora, or the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. This occurs in lines three and four of the first stanza. By beginning both lines with “Now,” followed by one stressed and unstressed syllable, a rhythm is created. This rhythm speaks to the speed, or lack thereof, in the speaker’s movements. 

Another important technique that is commonly used within poetry is enjambment. This occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point.  It forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. ‘Evening Scene From My Table ’ is not a poem that is filled with enjambed lines. There are one a few moments, and one of the most poignant is line three of the third stanza. Here, a reader has to go to line four to find out what “happiness” is to the speaker. 

You can read the full poem here.

 

Summary of Evening Scene From My Table 

‘Evening Scene From My Table’ by Vikram Seth is a calm, meditative poem that speaks on the beauty and pleasure to be found in time spent alone. 

The speaker in this piece is by himself at a table drinking “unfizzy beer”. He looks out from where he’s sitting, and takes note of the creatures going about their lives around him. No one and nothing interacts with him, and he is left to observe and find solace in the “birds and beer”. The poem concludes with a gentled reminder that soon the sun will go away and the “unnerving,” yet “grand,” bats will fly in dark formations “across a darkened sky.” 

 

Analysis of Evening Scene From My Table

Stanza One

The speaker begins ‘Evening Scene From My Table ’ by setting the scene. He tells the reader first that it is evening. He describes the time of day as if, with agency, it decided to arrive at a particular moment. The speaker relates us to his own movement in the second half of the first line by repeating the word “here”. Further details are added in the next three lines as the speaker describes where he is sitting and what exactly he’s doing. 

He’s at a “baize table “ with an unfit the beer in his hand. What’s interesting about these lines is that he refers to the table as “my”. This alludes to the fact that he’s been there many times before and always chooses to sit at this table. This is a very familiar location to the speaker, a feeling relayed through the casual style of diction. In lines three and four Seth makes use of anaphora. The word “now” begins both lines, and creates a rhythmic beat to the speaker’s actions. First, he is sipping his beer and then he’s looking out at the grass. These things happen one after another, steadily. 

 

Stanza Two 

The second stanza picks up right where the first left off by describing for the reader what the speaker can see in the grass from where he’s sitting. First, he describes two striped hoopoe birds. They are beautifully crested and are searching in the grass for “delicious insects”. Just as the speaker takes his time with his actions and his observations, the birds search for insects “one by one.”

 This goes on for a time until a barbet flies into the scene.  A barbet is a colourful small bird, that usually is mostly green with yellow and red markings around its face and neck. With the addition of line four, the barbet is presented as a flash of color within the smoky greatness of the sky. The speaker describes how smoke has come to obscure the “city sun”. By connecting these two words, smoky and city, it is clear the speaker is describing the pollution coming up from the city streets. Whether it is specifically factory-based, or just a general smog that is settled in the landscape, it doesn’t seem to matter.

 

Stanza Three

The third stanza of ‘Evening Scene From my Table’ is dedicated to the speaker solitude. He begins by making the simple statement that all of his friends have left and that he is the only one sitting at this table. This creates in the reader’s mind a contrast between what happened before the poem and what is happening now. These two states of being are juxtaposed, but only within the reader’s mind. One is left to fill in all the details of how the atmosphere must’ve changed. 

He goes on, elaborating on the larger environment. Seth’s speaker states that he can “see / no one”. By using the word no one again he is really attempting to emphasize the fact that his speaker is totally isolated. No one is there, and it appears that no one is going to be coming back. He is alone at the end of the evening. 

In the next two lines the speaker’s opinion of the state is made known very clearly. He does not feel saddened by his isolation. In fact, he decides that this kind of loneliness is happiness. He finds pleasure sitting along with “birds and beer.”

 

Stanza Four 

In the final stanza of ‘Evening Scene From my Table’ the speaker looks into the future and knows that the moment he is experiencing is temporary. This adds to its overall beauty. He knows that soon, “the sun will go” and the birds will be replaced by “unnerving bats”. They will follow the path of the sun westward in “clumped formations”. Their movement, just like everything else in this poem, will be “slow”. The speaker imagines that they will look like one dark mass moving across an already darkened sky. 

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