‘Sit’ is a fairly straightforward poem. The syntax and vocabulary make the poem easy and pleasurable to read. Plus, these features speak to the overall theme of the poem. That the world makes life complicated and forces everyone to feel rushed, so, it is important to sit down with another person and talk simply.
Summary of Sit
The poem is directed at “you,” an unknown listener who stands in for all readers and listeners of the poem. Everyone can put themselves in this person’s shoes. They are told, by the speaker, that they should put their work to the side and take pleasure in a moment of peace. The two can sit and talk about nothing or just stare off into space.
The twenty minutes that they spend together is going to be important for the speaker. Then, he adds in the end, they will be observed by grackles, a kind of small blackbird, the whole time. This alludes to the fact of observation throughout the rest of one’s life.
You can read the full poem here.
Structure of Sit
‘Sit’ by Vikram Seth is a two stanza poem that’s separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a simple rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD and are all around the same length. The majority contain twelve syllables, with only a few exceptions in which one syllable is dropped at the end.
Poetic Techniques in Sit
Seth makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Sit’. These include but are not limited to alliteration, sibilance, caesura, and enjambment. The first, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “work” and “wait” in line one. There are also examples of sibilance or the repetition of soft consonant sounds like “s”. In this case, “sit” and “sun” in line three of the second stanza.
Caesura occurs when a line is split in half, sometimes with punctuation, sometimes not. The use of punctuation in these moments creates a very intentional pause in the text. A reader should consider how the pause influences the rhythm of one’s reading and how it might come before an important turn or transition in the text. There is a good example in the first line of the first stanza. It reads: “Sit, drink your coffee here; your work can wait awhile”. Or, another example in the third line of the same stanza: “No need for wit; just talk vacuities, and I’ll”.
Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment 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. It can be seen in the transition between lines three and four of the first stanza.
Analysis of Sit
Sit, drink your coffee here; your work can wait awhile.
Reciprocate in kind, or laugh at you instead.
In the first stanza of ‘Sit,’ the speaker begins by using the word “sit”. It is said as a direction, asking “you,” and the unnamed listener, to sit down and “drink your coffee here”. The person to whom the speaker is talking is never elucidated. This allows each line to apply to anyone and everyone.
The speaker tells the listener that their “work can wait awhile”. From just the first line some of the major themes of this piece are made clear. Seth is interested in speaking about what’s important in life and how taking a break from obligations, ones that are chosen and ones that are necessary is beneficial.
He tells this person, who is young, that they have their whole life ahead and that there is no need to rush through every moment. There is also “No need for wit”. This refers to the conversation the two might have at that moment. They don’t need to posture or try to sound important and smart. The speaker says that he’s okay with talking “vacuities” or about nothing.
He might speak in the same way or he might “laugh at you instead”. The whole interaction is ahead of them and the speaker is going through some ideas of what it may or may not contain.
The world is too opaque, distressing and profound.
Staring with beady eyes, and you two feet away.
In the second stanza of ‘Sit,’ the speaker continues on to declare the world “too opaque”. It is “distressing and profound”. It’s hard to understand and its opacity hides things that are important. This makes it more difficult to understand what is important in life and when one should take the time to acknowledge and appreciate that.
There is something he outlines in the next lines that is very important. That is, taking a moment to sit in the sun and be still. Around them, there are “grackles…/ Staring with beady eyes”. This is a kind of dark-colored bird and observes their every move from only two feet away. They are being observed, judged, just as they are every day and will be for the rest of their lives.