The Ballad of Father Gilligan
William Butler Yeats
Answers for all the questions from the poetry ‘The Ballad of Father Gilligan’ included in the CHSE +2 book ‘Invitation to English – 1’.
Think it out
1. Why was Father Gilligan ‘weary’? Was he only tired physically or also exhausted mentally? Justify your answer with examples from the poem.
Answer – It was a time of epidemic when people died in great numbers. Father Gilligan had to say his prayers on behalf of the dying man standing at his side. There were so many dying that Father Gilligan had a very hectic day going from door to door – from one dying man to another to say the final prayers. The running around sapped his energy, and he became both mentally and physically tired. The grief of seeing so many of his people dying pained him very much. The poor folks either lay on the bed counting their last hours, or were dead and lay on the grass. The scene overwhelmed the Father in grief.
2. Why did he seek forgiveness? What type of man does this prove him to be?
Answer – Father Gilligan was a sensitive man. It gave him great pain to see so many of his folks dying so frequently. Attending to them in their last hours drained his physical energy. This is why he irritatingly complained about the deaths and the load coming on to him. At the same time, he was a devout Christian who understood his duty as the Father. He knew how important was it for the dying man to have him to say the final prayers. As a conscientious Father, he couldn’t disappoint a single dying man by not being at his side at the time of death. Such moral awareness made him feel very guilty and apologize to God for having complained about the load coming on to him.
3. How was the night: peaceful and quiet or turbulent and restless? Bring out expressions from the poem to support your answer.
Answer – The night was quiet and dark. Although the frequent deaths had shrouded the area with a pall of gloom, there was hardly any wail, or commotion. The dusk fell quietly, and the night ‘peeped’ in seamlessly. The stars appeared in the sky in ever larger numbers, but the effect on earth was nothing but a deafening silence.
4. Why has the night been described so?
Answer – The night came and departed quietly with no sound, no fuss. This is the reason why the Father fell asleep on his chair. Had it been a noisy time, the Father wouldn’t have fallen asleep. It was perhaps God’s desire to give the tired Father a quiet time to relax.
5. What was the reaction of Father Gilligan when he woke up from his deep sleep? State why he felt so.
Answer – The Father woke up when dawn arrived. He instantly realized that he had overslept, and failed to be at the dying man’s side to say the final prayers. He assumed that the man had passed away without the minimum service. He was devastated with remorse. With a guilt-ridden heart, he rushed to the poor man’s place.
6. Bring out the meaning of the expression: “He rode now as he never rode.”
Answer – Father Gilligan felt he had done an unpardonable disservice to the dying man and to God by not being at the poor man’s side in the final hour. He felt he had been callous, and lazy. The sense of guilt filled his mind with moral horror. This is why he rode his horse at breakneck speed with the maximum urgency.
7. Find the expressions that show Father Gilligan’s concern for the people under his care.
Answer – These are:
1. Was weary night and day
2. began to grieve
3. Mavrone, Mavrone, the man has died
4. In grief swayed to and fro
8. Why did the sick man’s wife say ‘Father! You come again!’?
Answer – When the man was on the point of breathing his last, a person looking like the Father had appeared and said the final prayers. Since this ritual had already been completed apparently by Father Gilligan, the widow was surprised to see the Father. Little did she know that an angel had come to do the sleeping Father’s duty.
9. Who came to the sick man before his death? Why?
Answer – It was an angel sent by the kindly God. Father Gilligan had slept off out of exhaustion. He never wanted to skip his duty. He was a very dutiful Father. God showed his kindness and affection for the Father by having his duty by sending an Angel.
10. What made Father Gilligan kneel and pray?
Answer – Father Gilligan understood that it was an Angel sent by God to do his duty. He was overwhelmed with gratitude, and joy at God’s love and magnanimity towards him. This is why, he knelt down and began to pray.
11. What were his words of gratitude to God?
Answer – Father Gilligan uttered in a voice choked with emotion,
“He Who hath made the night of stars
For souls who tire and bleed,
Sent one of His great angels down
To help me in my need.
‘He Who is wrapped in purple robes,
With planets in His care,
Had pity on the least of things
Asleep upon a chair.”
13. What qualities of Father Gilligan do you admire?
Answer – His dutifulness, humility and compassion were the hallmarks of his self.
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