Asleep in the valley


Asleep in the valley
Arthur Rimband

(It was originally written in French. The title was Le Dormeur du Val. It is a petrarchan sonnet. It is about the destruction of war where the lives of youth are withered before they can reach their full bloom.

Context: France – Prussian war / Franch – Russia War Rimbaud was a soldier of the Dutch Colonial Army.)

1. “In his side there are two red holes” – Who is the person referred to here? What do the two red holes signify? What attitude of the poet to war is reflected here?

Answer: The person referred to here is the dead solder who apparently seems to be sleeping peacefully in a beautiful valley.

The ‘two red holes’ mentioned in the last line of the poem are actually bullet wounds received by the soldier in the battle-field. These fatal wounds brought about his untimely and premature death.

       In the poem ‘Asleep in the valley’ a young soldier is found lying asleep in a lone valley. A close scrutiny reveals that the soldier has two bullets wounds on his body. The indication of the two red holes in the shoulder’s side only suggests the horror of war. In warfare the young soldiers become the inevitable victims. The two red holes remind us that war only causes loss of life and property. Where the lives of youth are withered before they can reach their full bloom. The cruelty in the killing of soldier is revealed in the mentioning the soldiers sleep on the green grass among the bushes. Thus Arthur Rimbaud upholds that war distils nothing but pity. The promising live of young soldier is thus wasted in the name of war. It clearly indicates that war is nothing but a wanton wastage of life.

2. ” His smile is like an infants” – Whose ‘smile’ is referred to here? Why is it compared to that of an infant? How does nature treat him?

Answer: The smile of the soldier who is asleep in the valley is referred to here.

The soldier who is sleeping peacefully in the small green valley has a beautiful smile on his face. He has no hypocrisy on his face. There is no trace of sorrow or complaint in the smile. It seems that after hard labour in the battlefield, he has got an opportunity to rest his is weary limbs. The peace which the soldier is enjoying during his sleep makes his smile as innocent as that of a child. Actually it seems that he smiles away the brutality of war.

Nature shows utmost love and sympathy to the dead soldier. She provides a sun-socked bed for the young soldier with a ferny pillow at his feet to show her respect for the dead soldier.

3. Describe the valley in which the soldier was lying asleep.


Narrate in your own words how the soldier lies in the valley?

Answer: In front of the eyes of the readers Arther Rimbaud presents a modern camera which zooms the panoramic view of the valley in details. The valley is small in size through which a stream is flowing. It looks green with lusts of plants and grass. The stream leaves silver coloured sand on its bright grassy bank. The entire valley looks bright and charming as the sun from the mountain top fills the valley with light. The glittering rays of the sun falling on the mountain stream look idyllic. A young soldier is found lying asleep with his feet among multihued wild flowers. Nature provides a sun-soaked bed for the young soldier and supports his head with a ferny pillow. Flowers serve as a cushion for his tired feet. He looks pale in his green bed warmed by sunshine. The soldier seems to enjoy his rest as he has one hand on his breast, a posture of screen. There is a smile of an innocent child lingering on his lips. The soldier sleeps undisturbed even the humming insects hum near the soldier appears to be lively brimming with joy. The landscape is so charming that the readers receive a rude shock when they come to know that the soldier is actually dead.

4. Justify the title of the poem ‘ Asleep in the valley’. Or

Discuss ‘Asleep in the valley’ as an Ironical poem.

Answer: In his poem ‘Asleep in the valley’ Author Rimbaud uses the word ‘asleep’ ironically (in the title). The poem is about a very young soldier who lies asleep on the green grass amidst the buses of the valley putting his hand on his breast. The soldier lies stretched on the warm green sun-soaked bed with an innocent smile on his face. It is only in the last line, when the poet mentions ‘in his side there are two red holes’ the readers come to know that the soldier is dead. He will never wake up even by the warmth of the sun. The soldier’s sleep is actually the eternal sleep of death. Here the poet ironically uses the title which implies poignant contradiction between the scenery of the poem and the stern reality behind it. (Thus, the title of the poem, ‘Asleep in the valley’ is quit apt to expose the atrocities of war and its futility in a stable manner.) (At the end of the poem the soldier begins to mock at us. We understand that like the soldiers we are deceived or further disillusioned. A sense of wastage caused by war pricks us. The image of peace and happiness are ironically used to expose the futility of war.)

5. Critically evaluate Rimbaud’s attitude to war in the light of the poem ‘Asleep in the valley’? Can the poem be called a war poem? Or

How is Arthur Rimbaud’s attitude against war revealed in his poem ‘Asleep in the valley’? Or

Discuss Arthur Rimbaud ‘Asleep in the valley’ as war poem?

Answer: Arthur Rimbaud wrote ‘Asleep in the valley’ in 1877 in the context of France’s war with Russia. Rimbaud was a soldier in the Dutch colonial Army. So he had a direct experience of the cruelty and in human aspects of war. He is vehemently against war and warfare. To him, war means horror and the merciless butchery of promising youths. Rimbaud presents in this poem a very young soldier, a victim of the atrocity of war, who is in his last sleep of death. The soldier is a victim of war that has been made clear by the expression ‘the two red holes’. The young life is unnaturally nipped in the bud. The poem proclaims the futility of war with the contrast of life and nature. The hypocrisy and deceitful nature of war mongers have been expressed through the description of the innocent smile of the dead young soldier. Thus, Rimbaud expresses his anti-war attitude in his poem ‘Asleep in the valley’.

No, this poem should not be called a war-poem because it never directly deals with war. The poet gives us certain hints where the fertility of war is stated clearly.

Short Question-Answer:

* The valley looks like long strands of silver on the bright green grass.

* The word ‘hollow’ suggests a valley surrounded by mountains.

* The smile of the soldier is that of an infant, gentle, without guile.

* The soldier lies open mouthed in the valley with a pillow of ferns beneath his head.

* ‘Heavy undergrowth’ means plants and bushes that grow in plenty in the valley.

* ‘They fill the hollow full of light’ – Here ‘they’ refers to the sunrays that illuminate the valley.

* The soldier looks pale.

* The soldier bed was warm, green and sun-soaked.

* The feet of the soldiers are placed among the flowers.

* The two red holes on the side of the soldier’s chest are actually the bullet wounds that received the soldiers in the battle-field.

Read More:“Strong Roots”