Notes Poem 1 A Photograph

Class 11 commerce students can refer to Poem 1 A Photograph notes given below which is an important Poem in the class 11 English book. These notes and important questions and answers have been prepared based on the latest CBSE and NCERT syllabus and books issued for the current academic year. Our team of English teachers has prepared these notes for class 11 English for the benefit of students so that you can read these revision notes and understand each topic carefully.

A Photograph Notes Class 11 English

Refer to the notes and important questions given below for A Photograph which is really useful and has been recommended by Class 11 English teachers. Understanding the concepts in detail and then solving questions by yourself will help you to learn all topics given in your NCERT Books.


The poem presents a contrast between the permanence of the nature and the transitory (ever-changing) nature of the lives of human beings. Human life is not permanent. We undergo stark changes from birth till old age till we finally meet the end. On the other hand, elements of nature like the sea tend to remain in the same state.

Main points:

  • The poet recollects how her mother laughed at the old photograph of her sea holiday. She also felt disappointed at the same time at the loss of her childhood joys.
  • The sea holiday was mother’s past; while the mother’s smile is the poet’s past now.
  • At different points of time both of them try to reconcile with their respective losses with great difficulty.
  • For the poet, the death of her mother brings great sadness and an acute sense of loss.
  • The painful “silence” of the situation leaves her with no words to express her grief. Thus, the silence silences her.


1. ALLUSION: The cardboards’ lack of durability hints at the lack of permanence of human life.

2. TRANSFERRED EPITHET: “Terribly transient feet”- human life itself is temporary, not the feet.

3. ALLITERATION: “terribly transient feet” (repetition of sound ‘t’) and “its silence silences” (repetition of sound “S”).

4. OXYMORON: “labored ease of loss”- the coming together of two opposite ideas to describe the same concept.

5. PERSONIFICATION: “silence surrounds us”- the situation has been given a human quality.


(i) The cardboard shows me how it was
When the two girl cousins went paddling
Each one of them holding my mother’s hands
And she the big girl-some twelve years or so
All three stood still to smile through their hair
At the uncle with the camera.

Question. What does the word “cardboard” suggest?
The cardboard suggests a photograph.

Question. Explain “smile through their hair”.
. The soft breeze at the beach had swept the hair of the girls on their faces.

Question. Why were the two cousins holding on to the poet’s mother?
The girl cousins were holding on to the poet’s mother because she was the oldest amongst them. The line also suggests affection and a sense of security.

Question. What is the age of poet’s mother in the photograph?
The poet’s mother is about twelve years of age.

Question. Which poetic device has been used in the second last line?
Alliteration in “stood still to smile”.

Question. How many persons are there in the photograph?
There are three persons in the photograph-poet’s mother and her two girl cousins.

Question. Where are the girls standing?
The girls are enjoying a holiday at the beach.

(ii) A sweet face:
My mother’s that was before I was born.
And the sea, which appears to have changed less,
Washed their terribly transient feet.

Question. Which poetic device has been used in the lines?
Ans. Alliteration and Transferred epithet in-“terribly transient feet”.

Question. What does the poetess say about her mother?
Ans. The poetess’ mother was a young and pretty girl when the photograph was clicked. She had a sweet face. This photograph was clicked long before the poetess was born.

Question. Explain “terribly transient feet”.
Ans. The phrase suggests the transient nature of human beings. We undergo massive changes from the time of birth till old age before death takes over. These changes are terrible because we suffer from many losses as we grow older.

Question. What is peculiar about the sea in the photograph?
Ans. The peculiar thing about sea is that it has an unchangeable quality. The persons in the photograph have seen undergone massive changes while the sea has not changed much.

(iii) Some twenty-thirty years later She’d laugh at the snapshot. “See Betty And Dolly”,
she’d say, “And look how they Dressed us for the beach”. The sea holiday Was
her past, mine is her laughter. Both wry With the labored ease of loss.

Question. Find out word from the extract which means “disappointed”.
Ans. “Wry”.

Question. How would the poet’s mother have reacted to the photograph?
Ans. The poet says that her mother would have laughed at the photograph. She would have found their dresses strange and funny.

Question. Identify the poetic device used in the last line.
Ans. Oxymoron-‘laboured ease of loss”.

Question. Who are Betty and Dolly?
Ans. Betty and Dolly are the two girl cousins of the poet’s mother.

Question. Explain the phrase “both wry with laboured ease of loss”.
Ans. Both the poet and her mother are disappointed with the losses which they have suffered but they have to accept the changes in order to move on.

Question. Which two things now belong to the past?
Ans. The sea holiday was the past of poet’s mother.
The mother’s laughter is the past of the poet because the mother is no longer alive.

(iv) Now she has been dead nearly as many years As that girl lived. And of this circumstance There is nothing to say at all. Its silence silences.

Question. Explain “this circumstance”.
Ans. The poet feels deeply sad about the death of her mother. This is the “circumstance” which has been referred to here.

Question. Identify and explain the poetic device used in the last line.
Ans. Alliteration- “its silence silence”
The poet is feeling emotional as the photograph kindles sad memories of the death of her mother. The painful “silence” of the situation leaves her with no words to express her grief. Thus, silence silences her.

Question. How much time has passed away since the mother’s death?
Ans. The poet’s mother passed away nearly twelve years ago.

Question. Who is “she” in the above lines?
Ans. She refers to the poet’s mother.

Question. What is the mental state of the poet in these lines?
Ans. The poet is feeling sad while looking at the photograph because it reminds her of the mother’s death.

Notes Poem 1 A Photograph

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