The Plate of Gold by James Henry Leigh Hunt

The Plate of Gold

                                              –James Henry Leigh Hunt

One day there fell in great Benares’ temple-court
A wondrous plate of gold, whereon these words were writ;
“To him who loveth best, a gift from Heaven.

There at
The priests made proclamation: “At the midday hour,
Each day, let those assemble who for virtue deem
their right to Heaven’s gift the best; and we will hear
the deeds of mercy done, and so adjudge.”

The news
ran swift as light, and soon from every quarter came
nobles and munshis, hermits, scholars, holy men,
and all renowned for gracious or for splendid deeds,
meanwhile the priests in solemn council sat and heard
what each had done to merit best the gift of Heaven.
So for a year the claimants came and went.

At last,
after a patient weighing of the worth of all,
the priests bestowed the plate of gold on one who seemed,
the largest lover of the race – whose whole estate,
within the year had been parted among the poor.
This man, all trembling with his joy, advanced to take
the golden plate-when lo! at his finger’s first touch
it changed to basest lead! All stood aghast; but when
the hapless claimant dropt it clanging on the floor,
Heaven’s guerdon was again transformed to shining gold.


So for another twelve month sat he priests and judged.
Thrice they awarded-thrice did Heaven refuse the gift.
Meanwhile a host of poor, maimed beggars in the street
lay all about the temple gate, in hope to move
that love whereby each claimant hoped to win the gift
and well for them it was (if gold be charity),
for every pilgrim to the temple gate praised God.
that love might thus approve itself before the test,
and so coins rained freely in the outstretched hands;
but none of those who gave, so much as turned to look
into the poor sad eyes of them that begged.


And now
The second year had almost passed, but still the plate
of gold, by whomsoever touched was turned to lead.
At length there came a simple peasant-not aware
of that strange contest for the gift of God-to pay
a vow within the temple. As he passed along
the line of shrivelled beggars, all his soul was moved
within him to sweet pity, and the tears well up
and trembled in his eyes.

Now by the temple gate
there lay a poor, sore creature, blind, and shunned by all;
but when the peasant came, and saw the sightless face
and trembling, maimed hands he could not pass, but knelt,
and took both palms in his, and softly said: “O thou,
my brother! bear the trouble bravely. God is good.”
The he arose and walked straightway across the court,
and entered where they wrangled of their deeds of love
before the priests.

A while he listened sadly; then
had turned away; but something moved the priest who held
the plate of gold to beckon to the peasant. So
he came, not understanding and obeyed, and stretched
his hand and took the sacred vessel. Lo! it shone
with thrice its former lustre, and amazed them all!
“Son”, cried the priest, “rejoice, the gift of God is thine.
Thou lovest best!” And all made answer, “It is well.”
And, one by one, departed. But the peasant knelt
and prayed, bowing his head above the golden plate;
while o’er his soul like morning streamed the love of God.

Meaning:

loveth best : (here) one who loves God most

proclamation : a public statement

deem : consider, regard

adjudge : consider and declare

quarter : (here) corner

renowned : well-known

solemn : serious

claimants : those who state the right to get something

bestowed : presented as a gift

parted : distributed

aghast : shocked and horrified

hapless : unfortunate

guerdon : reward maimed : permanently damaged, crippled

shrivelled : dried up and wrinkled

shrivelled : dried up and wrinkled

wrangled : argued angrily

beckon : call

lustre : shine

1. Stories can be told even in the form of poetry. Such poems are called Narrative poems. Narrative poems do not always follow rhythmic patterns of a fixed rhyme scheme. Such poems are written in a style called ‘Free Verse.’ Recall and name some narrative poems you have done / read earlier.

2. Read the poem below and fill in the gaps, choosing appropriate pairs of rhyming words, to make them meaningful.

Little things

Little drops of water,

Little grains of sand

Make the mighty ocean

And the pleasant land .

Thus the little minutes,

Humble though they be,

Make the mighty ages

Of eternity.

Little deeds of kindness,

Little words of love

Make this earth an Eden,

Like the heaven above.

What important message does the above poem convey?

The poem conveys the message that we do not have to do great deeds but small works of kindness will make this place a heaven on Earth.

English Workshop:

1. Pick out words from the poem to complete the sentences meaningfully.

(a) Stephen Hawking was a renowned (famous) astrophysicist.

(b) The Government made a proclamation (announcement) about their new taxation policy.

(c) Everyone stood aghast (horrified) When the terrible accident took place.

(d) She wrangled (bargained) with the hawker to reduce the price.

(e) Handicapped people should never be shunned. (ignored and avoided)

2. Make a list of archaic words from form the poem and give their modern equivalents.

(Archaic words are words that were earlier used in English, but are longer used now)

Archaic WordsModern equivalents
Thouyou
Thyyour
o’erover
thineyours
lovestloves

3. Rearrange the following in the proper order and inset them into a flow chart as per the poem.

(a) The plate turned to lead, when it was gifted to false-hearted claimants.

(b) Many claimants donated their wealth to receive the plate of gold.

(c) For almost two years, no claimants received the plate of gold.

(d) A plate of gold fell in a temple from Heaven.

(e) The peasant offered comfort and courage to a blind miserable beggar, whom all had ignored.

(f) The priests announced that the one who loved God most of all, would receive the gift from Heaven.

(g) When the priest gave the plate of gold to that peasant, it shone with thrice its lustre.

(h) A simple peasant, who had nothing to offer, came to that temple.

Ans.

(1) A plate of gold fell in a temple from Heaven.

(2) The priests announced that the one who loved God most of all, would receive the gift from Heaven.

(3) Many claimants donated their wealth to receive the plate of gold.

(4) The plate turned to lead, when it was gifted to false-hearted claimants.

(5) For almost two years, no claimants received the plate of gold.

(6) A simple peasant, who had nothing to offer, came to that temple.

(7) The peasant offered comfort and courage to a blind miserable beggar, whom all had ignored.

(8) When the priest gave the plate of gold to that peasant, it shone with thrice its lustre.

4. Which two sayings about God are conveyed through the poem ‘The Plate of Gold’?

(a) God helps those, who help themselves.

(b) God loves those, who love their fellow beings.

(c) God loves those, who give away their wealth, to please Him.

(d) Service to mankind is service to God.

Ans.

(b) God loves those who love their fellow beings.

(d) Service to mankind is service to God.                                          

5.  ‘But the peasant bowed and prayed to God……..’ What could he have prayed for for?

Ans. The peasant may have prayed for the good of mankind and to lessen the worries of everyone.

6. Imagine that you are the peasant. Compose a short prayer to God, after having received the plate of gold.

Dear God,

Please shower you blessing on each one of your creations, especially those that are blind, deaf or crippled. Help each and every one to bear their suffering and trust in you.  

7. Read other poems by Leigh Hunt, especially ‘Abou Ben Adhem’. Compare the messages in that poem with those in ‘The Plate of Gold’. What do you observe ?

Abou Ben Adhem

                                              –James Henry Leigh Hunt

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)

Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,

And saw, within the moonlight in his room,

Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,

An angel writing in a book of gold:—

Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,

And to the presence in the room he said,

“What writest thou?”—The vision raised its head,

And with a look made of all sweet accord,

Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”

“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”

Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,

But cheerly still; and said, “I pray thee, then,

Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night

It came again with a great wakening light,

And showed the names whom love of God had blest,

And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

Answer the following questions

1. Who could claim the plate of gold?

Ans. The person who loveth best i.e. one who loves God, could claim the plate.

2. To whom did the priests gift the plate of gold?

Ans. The priests gifted the plate of gold to the person whom they felt was the greates lover of humans.

3. What magical occurrence shocked the people?

Ans.  As soon as the claimant touched the plate of gold it turned into basest lead.

4. Why had many beggars collected outside the temple?

Ans.  Many beggars had collected outside the temple in the hope that all the people who came to the temple to win the plate of gold would show their charity and give them money.

5. Why did the pilgrims, to the temple, shower coins to the beggars?

Ans. By showering the beggars with coins they hoped that their acts of kindness would help them win the plate of gold.

6. What did they fail to do?

Ans. Though they praised God and showered the beggars with coins, but not even one of them even turned to look at the sad eyes of the beggars.

7. Why had god chosen the simple peasant as the most deserving of the plate of gold?

Ans. God chose the simple peasant as the most deserving of the plate of gold because he showed genuine compassion towards the poor, sore blind man whom all had shunned.

Appreciation of the poem ‘The Plate of Gold’

Name of the poem and poet: ‘The Plate of Gold’ by James Henry Leigh Hunt.

Theme: The poem gives us the message that God bestows his love, on only those who truly care for their fellow human beings. Service to others is service to God.  

Form: The poem is written in narrative form

Rhyme Scheme: The poem is written in free verse and therefore no rhyme scheme is followed.

Figures of Speech:

Simile: The news ran swift as light

Repetition: So he came, not understanding and obeyed, and stretched
his hand and took the sacred vessel.

Inversion: One day there fell in great Benares’ temple-court a wondrous plate of gold, whereon these words were writ.

Onomatopoeia: When the hapless claimant dropt it clanging on the floor.

Archaic Words like

thou for you;

thy for your;

o’er for over;

thine for yours;

 lovest for loves have been used

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