Night of the Scorpion by Nissim Ezekiel





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Published on Feb 8, 2011

Night of the Scorpion by Nissim Ezekiel.
Done for english homework.

Night of the scorpion lyrics=

I remember the night my mother
was stung by a scorpion. Ten hours
of steady rain had driven him
to crawl beneath a sack of rice.

Parting with his poison - flash
of diabolic tail in the dark room -
he risked the rain again.

The peasants came like swarms of flies
and buzzed the name of God a hundred times
to paralyse the Evil One.

With candles and with lanterns
throwing giant scorpion shadows
on the mud-baked walls
they searched for him: he was not found.
They clicked their tongues.
With every movement that the scorpion made his poison moved in Mother's blood, they said.

May he sit still, they said
May the sins of your previous birth
be burned away tonight, they said.
May your suffering decrease
the misfortunes of your next birth, they said.
May the sum of all evil
balanced in this unreal world

against the sum of good
become diminished by your pain.
May the poison purify your flesh

of desire, and your spirit of ambition,
they said, and they sat around
on the floor with my mother in the centre,
the peace of understanding on each face.
More candles, more lanterns, more neighbours,
more insects, and the endless rain.
My mother twisted through and through,
groaning on a mat.
My father, sceptic, rationalist,
trying every curse and blessing,
powder, mixture, herb and hybrid.
He even poured a little paraffin
upon the bitten toe and put a match to it.
I watched the flame feeding on my mother.
I watched the holy man perform his rites to tame the poison with an incantation.
After twenty hours
it lost its sting.

My mother only said
Thank God the scorpion picked on me
And spared my children.

Account by Liz Allen=

Nissim Ezekiel's 'Night of the Scorpion' is the poet's personal account of his memory of his mother being stung by a scorpion when he was a child. He begins by explaining that the scorpion had come in because of heavy rain and had hidden under a sack of rice. Ezekiel uses alliteration to describe the moment of the sting: 'Parting with his poison'. He alludes to evil in the phrase 'diabolic tail', comparing the scorpion to the devil.
The scorpion departed and, on hearing the news of the deadly sting, villagers came to the house. Ezekiel uses the simile 'like swarms of flies' to describe their number and behaviour. He states that they 'buzzed the name of God' repeatedly, the onomatopoeia enabling us to 'hear' the constant noise they made. The scorpion is again seen as the devil in line ten: 'the Evil One'. We can imagine the fear of the child observing the scene, as the peasants' lanterns created 'giant scorpion shadows' on the walls of his home. Onomatopoeia is used again as the poet says that these people 'clicked their tongues' whilst searching for the scorpion. They believed that whenever the scorpion moved, its poison 'moved in Mother's blood'.
Line eighteen is the first in a fourteen-line section which recounts the words of wisdom voiced by the peasants in the hope that the woman would survive. Five of the lines begin 'May ...' and are clear examples of the religious beliefs held by these villagers. They refer to past and future lives, absolution of sins, the lessening of evil and the hope that the poison will 'purify' the woman's flesh and spirit. Ezekiel describes how they surrounded his mother; he saw 'the peace of understanding' in their facial expressions.
Lines thirty-two and thirty-three form a repetitive pattern in which Ezekiel remembers the arrival of 'More candles, more lanterns, more neighbours, / more insects' as the rain continued to fall. In line thirty-four he makes the first direct reference to his mother's suffering, telling us that she 'twisted through and through' and was groaning in pain. He then turns to the reaction of his father, not a religious man but 'sceptic, rationalist'. On this occasion, however, the man resorted to 'every curse and blessing' accompanied by various herbal concoctions, such was his desperation. Ezekiel describes in detail that his father actually set alight to the toe that had been bitten. It must have had a profound effect on the poet as a child; he describes how 'I watched the flame feeding on my mother', personifying


  • Category

  • License

    • Standard YouTube License
  • Song

    • Red Moon
  • Artist

    • Adam Drake, Neil Williams
  • Album

    • ANW1243 - Acoustic Ambient
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    • Audio Network (on behalf of Audio Network plc), and 13 Music Rights Societies


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