The Cold Within Summary in English by James Patrick Kinney

The Cold Within Poem Summary in English and Hindi Pdf. The Cold Within Poem is written by James Patrick Kinney.

The Cold Within Poem Summary in English by James Patrick Kinney

The Cold Within Poem Summary
The Cold Within Poem Summary

The Cold Within Poem About the Poet

James Patrick Kinney was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, in 1923. He is best known for his poem ‘The Cold Within’ which is a sort of a parable. It is quite strange that during his lifetime the poem was rejected by- many publishers. It was at last published in the January 2000 issue of Liquorian, a Catholic magazine, many years after the death of the poet.

Kinney has actually written many poems, of which some are noteworthy such as ‘A Better World’, ‘I Can’t Change You’, ‘Never Alone’, ‘The Secret of Life’, ‘Who am I ?’ and ‘Who’s To Blame’.

The Cold Within About the Poem

All about the Poem The Cold Within:
The Cold Within’ conveys a useful message. It points out that we must have tolerance and love for one another. We should be kind and generous towards our fellow human beings.

‘The Cold Within’ gives us a useful message through a little story. Six human beings found themselves trapped together in extreme cold. Their fire – their only hope of survival in the cold – was fast dying. Each one of them held a stick of wood. If any one of them gave up his or her stick to feed the dying fire, all of them had the chance to survive. But sadly, none of them was ready to oblige for one reason or the other. It was not the cold without but cold within which was sure to perish them.

This ‘cold within’ refers to lack of feelings for others — cruelty, indifference, hatred, so on and so forth. Like a good parable, the poem coveys the idea that we must tolerate, if not love, one another. We should be kind and generous towards our fellow human beings. We should not allow religion, colour or any other prejudice to become mean, selfish and even self-destructive.

The Cold Within Poem Theme

I. The Cold Within
The cold within refers to the lack of feelings for, or hatred of, others, which is nothing short of a cardinal sin. Many of us develop this coldness in our hearts out of some prejudice. This prejudice may relate to race, colour, caste, religion or region. It makes us mean, stingy, selfish, greedy or unkind.

In the poem The Cold Within’ six persons trapped together in extreme cold somewhere perish because of the one or the other prejudice. The coldness in their hearts rather than the coldness outdoors proves fatal to them. This group of six persons is near the fire which is fast dying. Each one knows that it is only the fire that can make them survive. Each has a stick of wood which can keep the fire burning. Ironically, no one is willing to give up his stick for one reason or the other. The result is their death by cold – the cold within. This is the major theme of the poem. The idea is that the coldness in man’s heart is a kind of death.

II. Holding on to Sins
Another theme of the poem can be : leading a life of sins. The poet shows that each one of us (represented by six ‘humans’) is afflicted with some kind of prejudice or sin (represented by the log of wood in each hand). The most obvious sins are of spite, stinginess, greed, revenge, etc. The poem shows that each person in the unlucky group holds on to his or her stick which should have been given to the dying fire. Had they given up their sticks – their sins – to be consumed by purifying fire, they might have survived, or might have gone to the other world without the burden of their sins. But they preferred to die with their sins in their minds. The poet gives a kind of message or warning to us when he refers to their tragic end :

Their logs held tight in death’s still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They did not die from the cold without
They died from the cold within.

The Cold Within Poem Summary in English

A didactic poem
The poem ‘The Cold Within’ is a didactic poem. Though simple and straightforward in style, it conveys a profound meaning. It conveys a noble message in the form of a parable. The message is suggestive.

Trapping of six human beings
The setting can be anywhere. Just by chance six human beings get trapped in bitter cold. They are all sitting near the dying fire, their only hope of survival. Each one of them has a stick of wood. If any one of them gives up the stick, it will keep the fire burning and all of them will survive. But sadly and strangely, each has a reason to hold his or her stick back.

Each human being holds back his stick
The first of the group is the woman who does not want to give her stick as it will save the black man’s life, whose face she has seen in the light of the fire. The second man holds back his stick as one of them he has noticed, does not belong to his religion. The third is a very poor man in tattered clothes. He holds back his stick thinking that it should not be used to warm the rich man among them. The fourth, a rich man, holds back his stick. He wants to keep his wealth away from the undeserving lazy poor persons. The fifth, the black man, is full of hatred for the white people. He wants to hurt the white somehow by holding back his stick. The last man of the group has his own reason to hold his stick back. As no one else is ready to renounce his stick, so he too will not. He thinks he will only give to those who give first.

All perish
So all of them perish not because of the coldness from the outdoors but because of the coldness in their hearts.

The Cold Within Poem Stanza Wise Explanation

Stanza 1
The poem opens on a dramatic note. It attracts our attention at once by peculiar use of diction. The poet says that ‘six humans’ get trapped by chance in a very bitter cold. He uses ‘human’ and ‘not people’ so as to refer to all human beings. The line-
Six humans trapped by happenstance
—is to be read carefully. Though the six persons were together in a situation which seems to have been arranged, even though it was accidental. That is why, the poet has used the word ‘happenstance’, an event that is arranged. The six persons were thus in a situation from which there was no escape. They were sitting near the fire which was fast dying. Each of them had a stick of wood. This is how it is told in the story. We later realize that the stick in each hand is the symbol of sin.

Stanza 2
The fire which was dying needed to be fed with logs of wood. The first of the group was the woman who was not ready to renounce her stick of wood to keep the fire burning because she had noticed that one of them was a black. She did not want to save the black. Thus, she acted out of her racial prejudice.

Stanza 3
The next one found in the group was a person not belonging to his religion. He could not persuade himself to give up his stick of wood to help a person of another religion. He suffered from intolerance.

Stanza 4
The third man was very poor. He was in tattered clothes. He was full of bitterness and envy for the rich. ‘He gave his coat a hitch’, which is suggestive of his tightness. He thought it would be unjust to give what little he had to help others who had more than he. So he held his stick back.

Stanza 5
The rich man continued to sit back, and think of the money he had, and how he could save it from the lazy poor. He did not want to give anything to the undeserving poor. Thus, he showed his greed and stinginess.

Stanza 6
The black man’s face showed how much revengeful he was. As the fire was dying, he thought he had the chance to hurt the white people by keeping his stick with him. He clearly suffered from the vice of spite.

Stanza 7
The last man in the group lacked generosity. As no one else had given his stick, he would also keep his stick with him. In fact, he did nothing except for gain.

Stanza 8
As the fire extinguished, all the persons died. They died not because of the cold outside but because of the cold within. They died because they were too selfish to help others. Each of them had a log still in his or her hand, suggesting that no one had renounced sinning, being unkind, for one reason or the other.

The Cold Within Poem Glossary

Stanza 1
trapped : caught in a difficult situation of no escape
happenstance : chance, (here) an event
which seems to be pre-arranged, and not accidental
possessed : had
stick of wood : small log of wood

Stanza 2
held…back : did not give up, kept
black : non-white

Stanza 3
not of his church : person of different religion
bring himself to give : force himself to give (something)

Stanza 4
tattered clothes : rags
gave his coat a hitch : tightened his coat, symbolic of his meanness
idle rich : the rich who do not work hard but thrive on the labour of the poor

Stanza 5
had in store : accumulated
lazy : one who shirks work
shiftless : without ambition to succeed in life, lazy

Stanza 6
bespoke : showed
spite : hatred

Stanza 7
forlorn : lonely
nought : nothing

Stanza 8
cold without : the cold out of doors
cold within : lack of human feelings like generosity; selflessness, kindness, etc.

The Cold Within Poem Critical Appreciation

‘The Cold Within’ was considered to be a controversial poem and therefore it was not accepted for publication by the publishers. The writer got it published in a Catholic magazine named Liquorian. Since then it has received a lot of appreciation. Now it is considered one of the most inspirational poems of our times. It has appeared in countless church bulletins, websites and newspapers.

The poem, which is a parable, is set in the western part of Cincinnati, Ohio – a place where the blacks were simply hated and ignored in the times the poem refers to. There was a law which prohibited the blacks from appearing in public places after the dark, though it was repealed later.

The poem is simple and straightforward. Nothing is complex or mysterious about it. It appeals to our heart forcefully. It asks us to give up all our prejudices. We should stop being unkind, ungenerous, greedy, revengeful or spiteful. If we do not give up our prejudices we are sure to hurt ourselves and others equally. Prejudices, which are sins, are’ self-destructive.

The title of the poem ‘The Cold Within’ is simple, apt and suggestive. In the last stanza, the poet himself explains it. The coldness which we carry in our hearts is dangerous and fatal. It prevents us from reaching out to others, from helping and saving ourselves and others. It makes us lead a sinful life. The aptness of the title comes through the tragic end of the six persons who hold on to their sticks and let the life-saving fire go out in the deadly cold outside. They are consumed by the cold within their hearts.

The Cold Within Poem Style and Literary Devices

The first stanza of the poem makes it clear that the narrator is going to tell a story of six humans trapped in a difficult situation – a situation from which there is no escape :

Six humans trapped by happenstance
In bleak and bitter cold.
Each one possessed a stick of wood
Or so the story’s told.

The poem is, in fact, a parable – a story with a moral. It is so because the narrator/the poet is trying to bring home a very important lesson to his audience. The end of the six persons from the coldness from within and not from without is a plea against harbouring prejudices or sins such as racism, envy, arrogance, revenge and greed.

As in a parable, the words used by the poet are simple, excepting the word ‘happenstance’ which may seem odd to the present generation. The word ‘happenstance’ is deliberately used to suggest that the situation in which six persons have been trapped is pre-arranged, even though it is accidental. There is no escape from it. The poet says :

Six humans trapped by happenstance
In bleak and bitter cold.

The word ‘humans’ in place of ‘people’ or ‘persons’ is purposeful. The word ‘humans’ endows to ‘six humans’ representative character.

The use of figurative language is simple but effective. For example, the line – ‘He gave his coat a hitch’ – shows that the poor man in tattered clothes is not generous but is jealous.

Literary Devices

The use of symbols throughout the poem is almost self-explanatory. Log of wood in each hand is suggestive of sin. It becomes obvious that if logs are added to the dying fire, it will mean helping out someone other than one’s own self. If the logs are held back, as indeed they are, it means holding on to the sins even beyond death. Each person’s prejudice – envy, greed, revenge, spite, intolerance – is thus symbolically represented by the stick of wood in each hand.

The ‘cold within’ is a metaphor for lack of warmth, hard-heartedness, self-centredness, and inability to reach out to others. It is more dangerous than anything else.

Rhyme Scheme
Each stanza, having four lines, uses the rhyme scheme : abcb, which is an easy read. In each stanza, the second line rhymes with the fourth line. This pattern is regular and followed throughout the poem. This rhyme scheme helps the rhythm to be fast. The fast rhythm is in line with the theme of the poem – how fast greed, intolerance and arrogance can ruin you.

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