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Tartary by Walter De La Mare (Summary)

Tartary poem translation explanation by Walter De La Mare

The poem “Tartary” by Walter De La Mare is an escape from the harsh realities of life. Sick of day-to-day problems, the poet desires to go to an imaginative world to be relaxed. Normally, the person daydreams, when his desires are unfulfilled for a long time and he finds it too difficult to face the stark realities of life. Dejected by this world, the poet makes an ideal world in Tartary to lead an ideal life. That’s why the poem opens with possibility such as “If I were…”

The poet imagines himself as the sole owner of a rich territory where every desirable item is available. He will live in a palace furnished with luxurious items of furniture like an ivory bed and golden throne. Beautiful peacocks will spread their wings in his court. There will be tigers in the forests of his imaginary land. Fishes would swim in the ponds and their shining bodies will enhance the beauty. He will live like a great king. The trumpeters will make the announcement of royal meal-times. In the evening, multi-colored lamps will be lighted to increase the splendor of the royal palace. They will shine in yellow and red colors.

The music of different instruments like harp, flute, and mandolin will be enchanting. He will wear robes of matchless value as they will be decorated with diamonds and precious stones. Before the appearance of dawn, he will wear his martial dress to go out of the palace in the carriage drawn by seven zebras. This territory will be full of natural gifts i.e., God’s blessings in the form of high mountains, thick forests, and fertile valleys flowing with rivers of freshwater. The valleys and mountains will produce agricultural crops and a variety of fruits in abundance. The fragrant breeze will make the atmosphere extremely pleasant. The lakes, seas, and chirping birds will fly from tree to tree and will increase the charm of the land. So he will be the sovereign ruler of such land.

Explanation with Reference

If I were Lord of Tartary
Myself and me alone,
My bed should be of ivory,
Of beaten gold my throne;
And in my court should peacocks flaunt
And in my forest tigers haunt,
And in my pools great fishes slant
THeir fins athwart the sun

These lines show the poet’s cravings for the luxurious life as a lord of Tartary. Without any partnership, he wants to relish all things, as he will sleep on an ivory bed in place of wood. His royal chair will be made of gold. The atmosphere of the court will be matchless as the peacocks will shine brightly in the sun. So, these lines are the reflection of the poet’s intense ambition and his vexation in real life. For the sake of comfort and soothing effect, he wants to fly in a territory of unheard and unseen delights. The word picture of the poet’s ideal world is very convincing.

Lord of the fruits of Tartary,
Her rivers silver-pale!
Lord of the hills of Tartary,
Glen, thicket, wood, and dale!
Her flashing stars, her scented breeze,
Her trembling lakes, like foamless seas
Her bird-delighting citron trees
In every purple vale!

These line are the expression of poet’s sense of possession of all the objects of “Tartary”. He will be the commander and master of all resources such as fruits, gardens, rivers, hills, valleys, lakes and trees, etc. He would derive pleasure as a lord of all the natural gifts of God. He will be the owner of that land where stars will shine and the wind will be fragrant. The birds of that land will feel pleasure to sit on the citron trees in valleys full of violet and red leaves and flowers. The description of resources of “Tartary” is natural as well as appealing.

“Tartary” as a romance poem

“Tartary” is a remarkable romantic poem. It describes the poet’s journey into the dreamland of joy where there is perfection in each and everything. It also shows the poet’s disgust for real life of cares. The poet wants to become the ruler of the land. As a lord he will command, control and relish everything in a grand way. He paints the picture of luxurious life. He tells he will have bed of ivory, thrones of gold and beauty of his court will be enhanced by the dancing peacocks and shining fishes. Tigers will move in the forests. Trumpeters will announce his meal timing. Soul nourishing music will be produced through the combination of different instruments. He will wear magnificent robe and sword for the expedition of romantic land on the carriage driven by zebras. He will rule over all the resources of Tartary.

Impressive images have been used to pain the natural picture of every object. Colored words have been used as bed of ivory, golden throne, colorful peacocks, tigers and great fishes robe in beautiful color, zebras, glades and morning star. The whole poem is rhythmic. Similes have been used as “yellow as honey”, “red as wine”. Everything occurs in a natural way. There is no ambiguity in the poem. Diction is quite simple. Theme is approachable for every sort of reader. The poem reminds us of Coleridge’s poem Kublai Khan.

Question: Why does the poet take refuge in the world of imagination?

Answer: The poet’s shelter in the world of imagination shows the intensity and effect of real life’s sufferings, sorrows and uneasiness. When there is a lack of peace, calm and pleasure in real life, imagination plays a vital role to soothe man. Imagination instills new life into man. Stark realities take man towards pessimism whereas fancy prepares him for the new challenges of life. The poem is a journey into the realm of imagination.

The poet is reluctant to face harsh realities of life and want to transport in the world of romantic land that is beautiful, rich, fertile and replete with delights. He wishes to become the lord of Tartary where he will relish royal lifestyle. Rational mind knows such place does not exist but the poet and we allow ourselves to be allured by charmed delights. Here the imagination proves perfect, unique, zestful and attractive. By nature man always prefers unapproachable things. After achieving particular things a new sort of vacuum is created in him so journey into imagination never ends. Attraction of a thing lies in the absence of that thing. So hopes make life more attractive than realization. John Keats says: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”.

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