Summary of “A Child Said, What is the Grass?”

A grass is such ignored and under-rated vegetation that no one even wonders about it. But the poet has given this grass such parallels that it comes to closely expound the human conditions.

The striking contrast that lies between the grass and so many materialistic things and the human body itself, make one believe that grass is so closely linked with mankind.

In the beginning, the poet presents himself a position of ignorance, about what is grass. When a child asks him what grass is, he simply answers that probably does not know more about the grass than the ignorant child. As he ponders over the characteristics of grass, he begins to explain it with so many possible similarities.

With the similarities suggested, so many images of grass begin to accumulate like layers one on the top of the other, that the grass does not look insignificant anymore.

Grass has been posed as the Flag of the spirit and then as a hanky dropped by God, signifying the Almighty’s presence. In yet another comparison, the tiny grass is equated to a child who has just entered the world as a new born.

Grass is also used as a symbol of democracy. Its nature to grow equally among all races, colors, castes and creeds with no distinction makes it so fair and prejudiced giving it a high value. The poet manages to strike a tension in the poem by using two completely opposite words – ‘grave’ and beautiful in the line “And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.” It takes the poem to another level adding vigor and pronouncing the beauty of the grass in its strength.

The poet succeeds in giving a figurative image to the grass by comparing it with the hair on a man’s breasts. Grass comes out alive when it is compared with coming from old men or women or as a new born coming into the mother’s lap after it was taken away from her. The mother refers to the nature or earth here. Grass has spanned generations and can be dated back to ages. The fact is very well elicited in the line “Darker than the colorless beards of old men”.

Again the poet presents himself in a position of perplexity where he wonders if he is guessing correctly about the young men and women who are dead in a war. But then he is confident that all of them are surely alive in form of some small sprout may be. Grass represents continuation of life after death. It never meets death and exits as a small sprout even when tried to be wholly eliminated from the ground.

The poet’s utterances of the people mean that he has come to represent the voice of the people and as a reader to them who binds them. Spiritualism takes way towards the end when the poet says that nothing ever dies, it is just that it goes into some other form and that form may again get back and turn into a life. Death has been described as lucky at the end.