Estimate of the Poem- Brotherhood: Homage to Claudius Ptolemy

Introduction : Octavio Paz’s ‘Brotherhood’ is a very popular poem. It shows the insignificance of an individual in the vast universe. An individual is only a very small part of this enormous universe. While an individual is guided by time and the rhythm of day and night, the universe is beyond this. An individual, however, has an essential relationship with the universal.

Dedication: This poem is a tribute (lufto to Claudius Ptolemy. [For detailed discussion see Introduction to the Poem; ‘Dedication to Ptolemy’.

Theme: In the poem, the speaker is an ‘everyman’ who links himself/herself with history and continuity of time. Standing under the starry sky, the speaker realises his/her position in the vast universe. His/her earthly existence is finite and bound by time. Human life is very short but the surrounding universe is enormous. Looking up at the night sky, he/she watches the stars that write our destiny. Intuitively, the speaker realises that his/her life is predestined. At this very moment of selfrealization, the reader spells his/her destiny out.

Analysis: The opening line, ‘I am a man: little do I last’, focuses on the temporal-existential-predicament of man. Life of an individual is nothing but a finite lapse of time. But the universe that surrounds an individual is enormous like the night sky. The world of the speaker, like the stars that rhythmically (fault move and shine and write, is a concert of calls and answers. Reason fails to explain this. But the speaker realises intuitively that his/her life is predestined. By reading the poem, a reader can recreate the world created by the poem. The reader can decode (1680) the truth hidden in the rhythmic-poetic language of the poem. In comparison to the size and life-span of the universe, a human being is very tiny. The poet also conveys the truth that human knowledge regarding the world around us is very little. Thus, the poem highlights the realisation that the universe is great in comparison to human existence on earth.

Title : The title, ‘Brotherhood’, leads us to think that the poem is about brotherly relationship within a national or religious community sharing something in common. But in the context of the poem, the title indicates the idea of relationship that binds everything in the universe organically. The poet or the speaker acknowledges a superior power that shapes our existence. Human beings realise that they are bound by a cosmic force. But they can neither explore the truth nor explain the cosmic force because of lack of knowledge. Our life and existence is governed and regulated by cosmic laws. In this sense, the universe and humanity are intertwined and hence all share brotherhood. The title focuses on the relationship between different entities that work organically. So the title is appropriate.

Conclusion: Altogether, the poem, ‘Brotherhood’, exposes Paz’s own understanding of the predicament of the human existence and the insignificance (EarptaPop) of a person in comparison to the vastnessof the universe.

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