Article

The Night Mail Summary, Explanation, Theme

 

 

ICSE Class 9 English Poem The Night Mail Summary, Line by Line Explanation, Theme, Poetic Devices along with difficult word meanings from Treasure Chest Book

 

The Night Mail – Are you looking for Theme, Summary and Poem Explanation for ICSE Class 9 English Poem The Night Mail from Treasure Chest (A Collection of ICSE Poems and Short Stories) book. Get Summary, Theme, Explantion, Poetic Devices along with difficult word meanings.

 

 

The Night Mail ICSE Class 9 English 

By W.H. Auden

 

Introduction to The Night Mail

The Night Mail is a poem by Wystan Hugh Auden. The Night Mail carries the much awaited mail at night from London to Glasgow. The poet has personified the Night Mail, giving it human attributes as it travels all night through different terrains. 

The train brings letters, cheques and postal orders for all sections of the society. It goes through fields and farms but life is not disturbed by its journey. It reaches on time regardless of harsh and unfavourable terrain. 

The Night Mail was written in 1935 as a verse commentary for the final minutes of a documentary film of the same title. Auden assisted with the production and filming and decided that a spoken poem with musical backing would enhance the film and the result was this poem. The poem is celebrated as a classic example of film-soundtrack verse in English. 
 

 
 

The Night Mail Summary

The highlights of summary of The Night Mail are as follows-

 

At a Glance
  • The poem is about a train that travels at night with mail for the people of all social strata.
  • The train passes through fields and moors with the smoke chucking out over it. It noisily passes through the grasslands. 
  • The birds peep through their nests. The sheep-dogs and people living on the farm continue with their slumber. Only a jug in a bedroom vibrates as the train passes.
  • The train reaches Glasgow at dawn where the entire Scotland waits for it because the people are eager for their parcels and letters.
  • The train arrives with all sorts of letters having various tones and written in all kinds of styles. Some letters are typed, others are printed and some are misspelled. 
  • Thousands of people are asleep in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen in the hope of receiving the letters when they wake up. Their heartbeats will be quickened by the postman’s knock because nobody “can bear to be forgotten”.

 

 
 

Detailed Summary of The Night Mail

The Night Mail is a poem by W.H. Auden that takes us on a nighttime journey with a special train – the Night Mail! This train isn’t carrying people, but something even more important: letters!

The poem starts with the Night Mail crossing the border, bringing letters for everyone, rich or poor. It doesn’t matter who you are, the Night Mail has something for you – cheques for grown-ups, letters from friends, or maybe even a picture of a loved one.

As the Night Mail travels through the night, we see it climbing a steep hill. It’s hard work, but the Night Mail is strong and keeps going. It puffs out white steam and lets out a loud snort as it passes by peaceful fields and sleeping animals.

At a farmhouse, the train goes by so quietly that no one wakes up. Only a jug on a shelf shakes a little from the vibrations.

Finally, morning arrives, and the Night Mail reaches the busy city of Glasgow. Here, factories and machines stand tall like giant chess pieces. Everyone in Scotland has been waiting for the Night Mail: men in remote valleys by the sea, people in big cities, everyone wants to know the news.

The Night Mail carries all sorts of letters, each one special in its own way. There are thank-you notes, letters from banks, and invitations to visit family or see new things. There are love letters, juicy gossip from all over the world, and even news about money and everyday life. The letters come in all colours and tones – some funny, some sad, some short, some long, some typed neatly, some with misspelt words which were probably written in a hurry.

Even though the letters are so different, they all have one thing in common: they connect people. They bring joy, comfort, and news from faraway places. The Night Mail might just be a train, but it helps people feel close to each other, even if they’re miles apart.

As the poem ends, we imagine people in different Scottish cities waking up and waiting for the postman’s knock. Hearing that knock makes their hearts beat a little faster. After all, who wants to feel forgotten? The Night Mail reminds us that getting letters and staying connected to others is a really important part of life.
 

 
 

Poem Explanation

 

Poem:

“This is the Night Mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner and the girl next door.”

 

Explanation:

The first line of the poem sets the scene. It tells us we’re focusing on a specific train – the Night Mail – and it’s currently crossing a border. (between England and Scotland)
This train, the Night Mail is democratic, it carries letters for the rich as well as for the poor. Mails also include cheques and postal orders, which were used for sending money at the time.

By using these specific details, the poet creates a sense of anticipation and importance surrounding the Night Mail. It’s not just a train; it’s a vital connection that keeps people and businesses informed and connected, even at night.

 

Poem:

“Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient’s against her, but she’s on time.
Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,
Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.”

 

Word meanings: 

Beattock: A village in Scotland
Gradient: The slope of a road or railway line.
Moorland: Open, uncultivated land with low vegetation.
Boulder: A large, round rock
Shovelling: pushing quickly and in large quantities.
Snorting: to force air violently through the nose with a rough harsh sound

 

Explanation:

Beattock is a real location in Scotland known for a steep incline. So, here the train is “pulling up,” indicating effort as it makes the climb. The “gradient” refers to the slope of the tracks, which is working against the train as it goes uphill. But, despite the difficulty, the train maintains its schedule and is always on time.
The next lines paint a picture of the landscape. The train is passing by “cotton-grass,” fluffy white plants that grow in marshy areas, and “moorland boulders,” suggesting a somewhat remote place. 

Overall, these lines create a vivid image of the Night Mail’s determined journey. Despite the challenging climb and harsh environment, the train perseveres, highlighting its reliability and strength. The contrast between the noisy train and the silent landscape further emphasizes the train’s significant role in disrupting the nighttime stillness as it delivers its important cargo.

 

Poem:

“Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from the bushes at her blank-faced coaches.
Sheep-dogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.
In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in the bedroom gently shakes.”

 

Word meanings: 

Blank-faced coaches: Train coaches with no passengers on board.
Slumber: poetic term for sleep.
Paws across: This describes the sheepdogs’ relaxed posture, with their paws crossed in front of them.


Explanation:

The birds are startled by the train’s arrival. They turn their heads and stare at its empty coaches. However, the arrival of the train does not wake the sheepdogs as they are aware that they can not do anything to change the train’s path. The train does not wake the farmhouse residents, but a subtle detail – a “jug in the bedroom gently shakes” hints that the vibrations might have caused a slight disturbance. This suggests the train’s presence is felt even if not consciously felt by the sleeping residents.

 

Poem:

“Dawn freshens, the climb is done.
Down towards Glasgow she descends
Towards the steam tugs yelping down the glade of cranes,
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
All Scotland waits for her.
In the dark glens, beside the pale-green sea lochs
Men long for news.”

 

Word meanings: 

Descends: Move downward. (In this context, the train is going downhill towards Glasgow)
Glade: An open space in a forest or woodland. (Here, it’s used metaphorically to describe a large area filled with cranes)
Apparatus: Equipment or machinery used for a particular purpose. (Here, it refers to the industrial machinery)
Furnaces: Large enclosed structures in which fuel is burned to produce heat at high temperatures.
Gigantic: Extremely large or enormous.
Glens: A narrow valley between steep hills or mountains, especially in Scotland and Ireland. (A secluded valley)
Long for: Have a strong desire or feeling of need for something.
Sea lochs: An inlet of the sea forming a long, narrow arm into the land, especially on a rocky coast. Lochs means lakes. 

Explanation:

This stanza signifies a turning point. As the sun rises, the train’s uphill journey is over and now it shall descend towards its destination, Glasgow, a major industrial city in Scotland. The further lines introduce the industrial landscape of Glasgow. “Fields of apparatus” and “furnaces” refer to a vast industrial complex. The comparison to “gigantic chessmen” emphasises the sense of power associated with machinery. 

Contrasting with the industrial Scotland, “dark glens” and “pale-green sea lochs” evoke a more remote and natural part of Scotland. The men living there also wait for the news the Night Mail brings, emphasising the train’s reach across different regions.

 

Overall, this passage marks the end of the Night Mail’s challenging journey and its arrival in the industrial Scotland. The imagery of the bustling city and powerful machinery contrasts with the peaceful glens, highlighting the diverse landscape the train connects. The line “All Scotland waits for her” emphasises the train’s vital role in keeping the nation informed and connected.

 

Poem:

“Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from the girl and the boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or visit relations,
And applications for situations
And timid lovers’ declarations
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled in the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Notes from overseas to Hebrides
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, adoring,
The cold and official and the heart’s outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.”

 

Word meanings: 

Receipted bills: Bills that have a stamp or mark showing they have been paid.
Applications for situations: Applications for jobs (situation here refers to someone’s position or employment).
Timid: Shy or hesitant.
Declarations: Statements or announcements, often of strong feelings.
Gossip: Rumours or unsubstantiated information about other people.
Circumstantial: Providing details about the surrounding circumstances.
Financial: Relating to money and finances.
Snaps: Informal photographs, often taken quickly.
Enlarge: To make something bigger.
Margin: The edge or border of a page.
Condolences: Expressions of sympathy on the death of someone.
Highlands and Lowlands: Geographical regions of Scotland, with the Highlands being the more mountainous and rural area, and the Lowlands being the plains and more populated area.
Hebrides: A group of islands off the west coast of Scotland.
Hue: A particular shade or color of light.
Chatty: Friendly and talkative.
Catty: Mean-spirited or malicious in remarks about others.
Adoring: Filled with great love and admiration.
Outpouring: A large or continuous flow of something, often emotions.

Explanation:

The Night Mail carries letters of all sorts like receipts or bills of purchase, invitations to events like weddings, applications for leave, etc., lover letters, gossip chitchat perhaps among friends, circumstantial news related information and news related to financial matters. The letters are from different cities and by various people. The letters are of different styles like long, short, typed, printed and are written on papers of different hues of ink like pink, violet, white and blue. They all have different tones like chatty, catty, boring, friendly, clever, cold and stupid. Some even have wrong spellings.

Overall, this stanza portrays the Night Mail as a vital carrier of human connection. It transports not just physical letters but a kaleidoscope of emotions, information, and stories, connecting people across distances and uniting them through the power of written communication.

Symbolism: The Night Mail itself becomes a symbol. It’s more than just a train; it’s a tireless carrier of human connection, a silent witness to the ever-flowing stream of human emotions and stories.

 

Poem:
“Thousands are still asleep
Dreaming of terrifying monsters,
Or of friendly tea beside the band at Cranston’s or Crawford’s.”

Word meanings:
Cranston’s or Crawford’s: References to tea shops or cafes in Edinburgh, Scotland at the time the poem was written.

Explanation:
Many people are still sleeping as the train moves along its tracks. They might be having nightmares of terrifying monsters, or they might be dreaming of a pleasant social gathering. “Cranston’s” and “Crawford’s” likely refer to tea shops or cafes with live music.

The stanza showcases the vast range of emotions and experiences that people encounter in their dreams, from fear to happiness.

Poem:

“Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well set Edinburgh,
Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
And shall wake soon and long for letters,
And none will hear the postman’s knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?”

Word meanings: 

Well-set (Edinburgh): Prosperous and attractive city, well-maintained and established.
Granite: A type of very hard rock.
Long for: This means to have a strong desire for something.
Quickening of the heart: Speeding up of the heartbeat. (The sound of the postman’s knock will cause their hearts to beat faster due to excitement.)

 

Explanation:

Here, the poet introduces three major Scottish cities: Glasgow, known for its industries, Edinburgh, known for its beauty, and Aberdeen, nicknamed the “Granite City” due to its prominent buildings made of granite. The people here, despite being asleep, subconsciously await and long for the arrival of their mail. Even the sound of the “postman’s knock” triggers a physical reaction – a “quickening of the heart” – indicating excitement and anticipation.

The last line is the central message of the poem. It suggests that the longing for letters arises out of a fundamental human need to feel connected. Receiving mail is a reassurance of one’s place in the community and a reminder of the outside world.

Overall, these lines create a powerful image of a nation united by a shared desire for connection. Even in their sleep, the people subconsciously await the mail, highlighting the importance of communication and the fear of isolation.
 

 
 

Title Analysis of the Poem The Night Mail

The Night Mail is an apt title for the poem as each word in the title justifies its existence. 

The article “the” reflects that the train is not any ordinary passenger or freight train. It is a special train for the delivery of the mail. 

The word “Night” in the title refers to the journey of the train which travels during the night. The last but the most important word “Mail” represents the ethos of the poem- the efficiency of the postal service that goes through highs and lows, and faces a number of challenges while travelling to different terrains of Scotland and England. 
 

 
 

Themes of the Poem The Night Mail 

The Night Mail by W. H. Auden explores several interesting themes, as follows:

  • Human Connection
  • Human Experiences
  • Modernity and Tradition
  • Universality of Human Needs
  • Duty

 

  1. Human Connection: The poem celebrates the role of the Night Mail train in connecting people across vast distances. It carries letters of all kinds, from mundane bills to heartfelt declarations, weaving a web of communication that binds the nation together.
  • “All Scotland waits for her. / In the dark glens, beside the pale-green sea lochs / Men long for news.”

This line emphasizes the anticipation people across Scotland have for the mail. It signifies their desire to stay connected with loved ones, receive news, and participate in a larger world.

  1. Human Experiences: The poem explores the diverse range of human experiences conveyed through the mail. It highlights the hopes, dreams, anxieties, and routines of ordinary people. From children receiving postcards to lovers sending declarations, the mail becomes a window into the human condition.
  • “Letters of thanks, letters from banks, / Letters of joy from the girl and the boy, / Receipted bills and invitations…” (This section lists the various types of mail, reflecting different aspects of life)
  • “The chatty, the catty, the boring, adoring, / The cold and official and the heart’s outpouring…” (This line describes the range of emotions conveyed through letters)
  1. Modernity and Tradition: The poem captures the power and speed of modern technology. The Night Mail relentlessly travels through the night, a symbol of progress and efficiency. The Night Mail represents a modern marvel of technology, yet it also carries on the age-old tradition of communication through letters. 
  • “This is the Night Mail crossing the border…” (The poem starts by introducing the mail train as a powerful force)
  • “Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces / Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.” (This line depicts the industrial landscape and its connection to communication)
  1. Universality of Human Needs: Despite differences in location and social standing, the poem suggests a shared human desire for connection and news.
  • “Thousands are still asleep / Dreaming of terrifying monsters, / Or of friendly tea beside the band at Cranston’s or Crawford’s.” (This section shows people dreaming despite their different realities)
  • “For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?” (This line emphasises the universal human need to feel remembered and connected)
  1. Duty

The poem conveys a sense of duty and punctuality. The Night Mail travels every night through various plains and hilly areas to bring letters, cheques and postal orders for the people, fulfilling its duty. It reaches on time regardless of the harsh terrain and unfavourable weather conditions because it knows that people : 

But shall wake soon and hope for letters

It does not discriminate between the rich and the poor and serves them all. The Night Mail is regular and punctual in performing its duty. 
 

 
 

Setting of the Poem The Night Mail

The poem describes the journey of the Night Mail that travels from London to Scotland carrying letters. The poet has beautifully depicted the places and the terrain through which the train passes in such a way that it makes the readers draw a visual map of the entire route of the Night Mail.

The Night Mail goes through Beattock and moves along the gradient. The train passes through the fields, plains, the grassy lands and the sloppy areas on her way to Scotland. She goes past the farms and moorland boulders as well. 

When the train enters an industrial area, the vocabulary used makes it quite easy for the readers to comfortably leave the countryside and enter an urban industrial area. 
 

 
 

Narration Style of The Night Mail

 

Narrative Style

The poem follows a clear narrative style, mirroring the train’s journey. It starts with its departure, describes its progress through the night, and concludes with its arrival.

 

Structure of the Poem

The poem conforms to a rhyme scheme and metrical pattern that follows the path of the train. Note the rhyming pattern in

 

“Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,
Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses”

 

Symbolism

Symbolism refers to the use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from literal meanings. “Night Mail” symbolises duty, punctuality and hope. Besides, its arrival with different types of letters at dawn symbolises the beginning of a new day, with new hopes and aspirations for the recipients of the letters. Another significant symbol reflected in the poem is that the Night Mail acts like a human being and her journey symbolises the journey of human life with many ups and downs. 

 

Rhyme Scheme

The Night Mail by W.H. Auden does not follow a consistent rhyme scheme throughout the poem.

  • The first 16 lines are couplets, meaning they have two lines that rhyme perfectly (AABB).

 

“This is the Night Mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner and the girl next door.
Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient’s against her, but she’s on time.
Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,
Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.

Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from the bushes at her blank-faced coaches.
Sheep-dogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.
In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in the bedroom gently shakes.”

 

  •  The rest of the poem follows an irregular rhyme scheme.

 

 
 

Poetic Devices in The Night Mail

 

  1. Alliteration: Repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words in a line. 
  • Line 8: “Shovelling white steam over her shoulder” 

(repetition of “s” creates a hissing sound)

 

  1. Assonance: Repetition of vowel sounds in a line. 
  • Line 36: “Letters to Scotland from the South of France” 

 

  1. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses.
  • Line 33: “Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,

Letters with faces scrawled on the margin,

Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,

Letters to Scotland from the South of France.”

  1. Simile: It directly compares two things by highlighting the similarities using comparison words such as “like”, “as”, “so”, or “than”.
  • Line 16: “Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen” 

(compares the furnaces to chessmen, highlighting their imposing presence.)

 

  1. Personification: It refers to the representation of a thing or abstraction as a person.

The Night Mail train is personified throughout the poem.

  • Line 6: “She remains on time as she travels…” – Using “she” refers to the train as a female entity.
  • Line 8: “Over her shoulder:” – Attributing a shoulder to the train suggests a human-like form.
  • Line 9: “Snorting noisily as she passes:” – This depicts the train making a sound, similar to how an animal might snort.

 

  1. Imagery

Visual Imagery: Vivid descriptions paint a picture of the train’s journey.

  • Line 8: “Shovelling white steam over her shoulder” 
  • Line 15-16: “Fields of apparatus, the furnaces / Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen” 

 

Auditory Imagery: The poem evokes sounds associated with the train and its environment.

  • Line 9: “Snorting noisily as she passes” 
  • Line 14: “steam tugs yelping down the glade of cranes” 

 

  1. Enjambment: It refers to the continuation of a sentence without a pause.
  • Lines 7-8: “Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder / Shovelling white steam over her shoulder” 
  1. Rhetoric Question: It is a question asked in order to create a dramatic effect rather than to get an answer.
  • Line 43: For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?

 

 

Show More

Leave a Reply

यौगिक किसे कहते हैं? परिभाषा, प्रकार और विशेषताएं | Yogik Kise Kahate Hain Circuit Breaker Kya Hai Ohm ka Niyam Power Factor Kya hai Basic Electrical in Hindi Interview Questions In Hindi