Treasure Trove A Collection of ICSE Poems Workbook Answers Chapter 2 Notes – The Cold Within – ICSE Class 10, 9 English
About the the Poem
The Cold Within” was written in the 1960s by an American poet known as James Patrick Kinney.lt has appeared in countless church bulletins, web sites and teaching seminars, as well as magazines and newspapers. According to the poet’s widow, he submitted the poem first to the Saturday Evening Post, but it was rejected as “too controversial for the time”. Kinney sent it later to Liguorian, a Catholic magazine, which was the first commercial publication to print it.
According to Timothy Kinney (the poet’s son), the poem was originally read at an ecumenical council meeting, after which the ministers, priests and rabbis in attendance requested copies of it. They read the poem to their congregations and, before long, “The Cold Within” became well known throughout the United States. According to James Patrick Kinney’s son, the poem is in the public domain. A short and sweet poem written by James Patrick Kinney in the 60’s that gives an extreme euphemism for the consequences of racism.
About the Poet
The late James P. Kinney fueled by a sense of justice, and wanted to change the world for the better. With this motive in mind he wrote his most famous poem, “The Cold Within ”, which is a simple, straightforward and powerful poem. It also describes the man who wrote it. When you understand the man, you’ll see why he wrote the poem. Thanks to Timothy Kinney, James Kinney’s son, we have insight into the man behind this now- classic poem:
The poet talks about Cheviot, Ohio, which is a township on the west side of Cincinnati,Ohio. There was still a law on the books there that a black person was not allowed on the streets of the city after dark. This was during the civil rights movement. The poet and a group of men from his church felt that this was an outrage, so they approached the City Council to have the law abolished. They were told that, since there were no black families in Cheviot, any black person on the streets after dark was obviously up to no good, so the law would remain. My father’s group found a family of black activists who were willing to move to Cheviot. They helped them move in and tried to make them feel at home. Then they approached the City Council again and said “under the new circumstances, the law must be changed.”
The City Council changed the law, but they were not very happy about it. The poet I was really unhappy with the community and the way they reacted to the change, so he pulled out and shared with the community a poem he had written during the early years .of the civil right movement; it was “The Cold Within”, a parable about the things that separate us and how the coldness in men’s hearts is a kind of death. The message was so powerful, the poem took on a life of its own. The poem beautifully captured the futility and stupidity of racism and bigotry. Helping out someone you hate can be one of the hardest things that you have to face, and when you are put in that situation what would you do? Could you be brave enough to save someone you despise in order to save yourself? In “The Cold Within”, James Patrick Kinney uses diction, figurative language,and rhyme to project his point that prejudices controlling people’s lives and actions.
The Cold within refers to the lack of feelings for or hatred of , others which is a unforgivable sin. Many of us fall a prey to this coldness or hatred within our hearts due to racial discrimination or hatred and this leads to our doom. This prejudice may result due to race, colour, creed, caste or region. It changes our thinking and corrupts us making us mean, cruel, greedy or unkind. Six men in the poem had a stick each and could have kept the fire going by relinquishing their sticks and all would have been saved. But the frigidity of their hearts prevented them from saving the others. This is the major theme that the colness in men’s heart is a kind of death.
- Trapped – caught in a difficult and inescapable situation.
- Happenstance – chance, here refers to an event which seems to be pre-arranged and not accidental.
- Stick of wood – small log of wood.
- Back – did not give up.
- Black – of African origin.
- Not of his church – person of different religion.
- Bring himself to give – force himself to give something
- Tattered clothes – rags.
- Gave his coat a hitch – tightened his coat, symbolic of his meanness.
- Idle rich – the rich who do not work hard but thrive on the labour of the poor.
- Lazy – who shirks work.
- Shiftless – without ambition to succeed in life.
- Bespoke – showed.
- Spite – hatred.
- Forlorn – lonely.
- Nought – nothing
- Gain – profit.
- Cold without – cold weather outside.
- Cold within – lack of human feelings like kindness, generosity, selflessness, etc.
Six people were trapped in the cold and it was dark. Each possessed one stick of wood, and their fire was dying. This is how the story is told.
The first man saw a black man in the group and did not want to give his stick because it would save the black man’s life.
The second who had a birch stick, didn’t want to help the other-religion person who did not belong to his church.
The third man didn’t want to use his little stick to warm the rich; he was very poor and so hated the rich.
The fourth man was rich and wanted to keep his great amount of money away from the undeserving, lazy poor people. The fifth man-a black wanted revenge from the white people- he wanted to hurt the white people somehow, so he kept his stick
The sixth man didn’t receive any help from the others since none of them gave up their stick, so he wouldn’t either since they didn’t.
They all kept their sticks,tightly clutched in their hands and this was a proof of their human sin of hate and racism. As a result they all died but it was not the cold outside which killed them but the cold and hate in their hearts for each other that killed them.
The people in this poem illustrate the coldness within and how destructive it is and how it works. The poem as a whole is about the need for human beings to tolerate one another. It speaks of how hatred of other people because of their race or religion or some other characteristic ends up hurting all people. We are introduced to the basic setting – ^ – there are six people around a fire, each with a stick of wood. The second stanza shows us the first instance of bigotry. One of the people notices that another of the six is black. He did not put his log in the fire because he did not want to help a black person. The second man is a bigot and does not want to help the man who was not from his religion. The poor man did not want to help the idle rich and the rich did not want to share with the poor. The black wanted to take revenge from the white and the consequence of all this feelings of hate, revenge and religious bigotry was that none of them gave his stick to keep the fire going. Thus the fire died and they too died of the cold, each a prisoner of the hate within, the coldness of their hearts which killed all of them. Having a log still in their hand shows that they kept it back (sinning, being unkind). The cold outside did not kill them (for if they gave up their sticks, they would all live), the cold sins in their minds led to their death.
‘A Cold Within’ is a short and sweet poem written by James Patrick Kinney in the 60’s that gives an extreme euphemism for the consequences of racism The poem is a parable- that is a story with a moral. It is so because the pet is trying to bring home a very important lesson to his readers. The six men die not because of the cold weather but because of the cold within-the hatred, racism, prejudice, revenge and arrogance. In the beginning, the poem unwraps as a story or a tale. The author uses negative language ‘idle,’ ‘lazy’, ‘shiftless’. The people in this poem illustrate the coldness within and how destructive it is and how it works. These six people have a fire keeping them all alive. If even one would have relinquished his stick to feed the dying flame, then they would ; have all survived. However, each of them was held back by a sin:
1st: prejudice – He didn’t want to save the black man
2nd: intolerance – He did not want support one of another religion
3rd: bitterness and envy – He felt that it would be unjust for her, a poor person, to give ; what little he had to warm the others who had more than she.
4th: greed, stinginess – He felt that he earned what he got and that the poor were poor because they were lazy, thus meaning he shouldn’t give anything to help the undeserving (in his opinion).
5th: …spite, – The black man knew that he could save the white people, but he didn’t,feeling vindicated.
6th: lack of generosity – He would only give to those who gave first.
The line that Kinney starts his poem with is “six humans trapped by happenstance”. His diction in this line is very important to the overall theme of the poem. By saying “six humans”, it is almost as if he is talking about all humans. If he would have said “people” then we might have different associations with the words. Another curious use of diction is by saying “trapped in happenstance”. Happenstance means an event that might have been arranged although it is accidental. This use of diction is important because by saying that it is accidental, yet almost seems arranged, gives the reader a sense that they are supposed to be there. The fact that he says they are trapped suggests that they do not want to be in the situation, but they cannot escape.
Figurative language plays a vital role in developing the poems theme. “Their dying fire in need of logs” literally means the fire that is keeping them warm, but also stands as a metaphor for their sinful souls. They are committing sins such as racism, envy, arrogance, revenge, and greed. By saying they need to add logs to the fire suggest that they need to help out someone other than themselves, or they will “freeze” to death. Opening up and not being greedy will warm their souls and will save them, unfortunately it has overcome them and is an impossibility.
The poet uses various literary devices. Symbols are used extensively. Each log of wood is suggestive of a sin. If the logs of wood are put into the fire it would mean helping out someone , other than one’s own self. But if they are held on as they are, it means holding onto sins even beyond death. Each man’s prejudice- greed, envy, arrogance, revenge, spite, intolerance – are represented symbolically by the stick held by each man. The cold within is a metaphor for lack of warm – heartedness, selfishness, hard-heartedness and inability to reach out to others.
The rhyme of the poems sets up an easy read. Each stanza having four lines has the rhyme scheme of abcb. This allows for your eyes to simply glide and take in Kinney’s message: the frigidity of people is what ends up killing them. The rhythm is important to the theme of the story because it makes reading the poem faster. This is important because this indirectly shows how fast arrogance, greed, and sin can “kill” anyone.
The poet effectively portrays his point about hatred killing by using diction, figurative language, and rhyme. His persuasion in this poem is really helpful in understanding the entirety behind his point. This poem really makes you think about yourself and the lengths to which you would go to either hurt someone else, or save yourself. His tone seems condemning, scornful. Also, it seems to be warning you somewhat about the results of a cold heart.
Thus it was not the cold which led to their death but the cold of hate and racism and bitterness which killed all of them. The poet emphasises the idea that it is the coldness within men’s hearts which leads to their death and doom.
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