Abou Ben Adhem Summary by Leigh Hunt
Addressing himself as Abou Ben Adhem, the poet narrates the story of a holy, religious and noble person who was a firm believer. He was a sincere and true devotee of God. He followed the moral and religious principles. He gave up the world for serving God and his fellow beings. He was wholly dedicated to the service of makind. He could see none in sorrow and distress and was ever ready to make welfare of his fellow beings. As he did noble deeds during the day, he would enjoy a peaceful sleep. One night while enjoying a sound and peaceful sleep, he woke up because of dazzling light. He found out that the bright light was due to the presence of an angel who was writing something in a gloden book.
Being a pious man, Abou was not least afraid of the angel and the silence in the room made him more courageous. Becoming happier and bold and mustering up his courage, he came forward to ask the angel of his activity of writing. He asked the angel boldly what he was writing. The angel who was busy in writing something looked at Abou with a clam and soothing effect. The angel, looking at Abou, sweetly replied that he was writing the names of all those who love God.
On hearing this from the; angel, Abou became curious to know about his name in the list as he was also true and sincere devotee of God and believed in ethical principles. Hence, without having any signs of fear, he asked the angel if he had included his name in the list. At this the angel replied him in negative. Abou was a bit taken aback to hear this, but he was not disheartened. Then in a very polite and cheerful tone, Abou requested the angel to write his name in the list of those who love their fellow beings.
The angel wrote something and disappeared from Abou’s room. Abou did not care of disappearing the angel nor did he express any sign of worry and surprise. He remained calm at this incident. But the next night, the angel appeared again in his room with the same dazzling light and illumined the room with divine light. The angel was holding the list of those who had been blessed by the love of God. He displayed the list before Abou. When Abou saw the list, he found it strange but true that his name was written on the top of the list.
It makes clear that God showers his blessings upon those who, instead of worshipping God, love and serve their fellow beings selflessly. Those who have evil feelings for their fellow beings are shunned by God.
Abou Ben Adhem Poem Summary Introduction
The poem entitled Abou Ben Adhem is a religious, spiritual and enlightening poem of Leigh Hunt. The poet was a religious man trained in a Christian hospital. He wrote this poem while still in school. The poem has been written in a religious concept. The London firm of Saunders and Otley published the poem in a three- volume collection (printed between 1836 and 1838) entitled The Book of Gems : The Poets and Artists of Great Britain, edited by Samuel Carter Hall. The legend of Abou Ben Adhem’ was picked up by Hunt from a French book, the Bibliotheque Orientate (1697). According to the history, Abou Ben Adhem was the king of Balk. He led a noble life according to the principles and teachings of the Holy Quran. He gave up his throne to serve his fellow being. The poem consists of one single incident involving Abou Ben Adhem, a religious person (but it cannot be strictly identified with the king Abou Ben Adhem).
Abou Ben Adhem is a poem that has portrayed the heavenly feelings of a devotee or a strong believer. This poem clearly shows that the poet who addresses himself as Abou Ben Adhem is a strong believer in God. He believed that not only loving God, but also loving people who believe in God is great. The poem clearly depicts the belief one has in God. When we love God, we can love other people. By loving other people, we can make the world a better place and forget and forgive one another. In the poem, the poet has tried to convey the message that by loving, serving and caring one another, we can make the earth a better world to live in.
Abou Ben Adhem Summary Stanzawise Word-Meanings, Paraphrase and Explanation
1. Abort Ben Adhem………………………book of gold.
Word-meanings: May……. increase = as Abou was the leader of a tribe, he wanted that there should be a large number of people of his tribe like him. Awoke ‘= wake up‘ suddenly from peaceful sleep. Dream of peace = a dream soothing one’s mind. Rich *= the atmosphere of the room was made better by the moonlight. Within ……… bloom = the moonlight-like presence of an angel. The beautiful atmosphere of moonlit room has been compared to blooming lily. A book of gold = a heavenly book used by the angels to write the deeds of human beings.
Paraphrase: Once there lived, a pious, virtuous and religious man named Abou Ben Adhem; He was a firm believer of God. He followed ethical principles. He believed that true religion and worship was to serve and love the fellow beings. As he was full of spirits of love, peace, brotherhood and neighbourhood, he was ever ready to serve and help his fellow beings in distress.
Due to being free from any kind of vices and ill-will, he lived a spiritual life of contentment. Indeed he was a true embodiment of nobility and goodness. He wished that there might be more people like him. One night he was having a peaceful sleep, suddenly he woke up from his peaceful sleep because a dazzling light brightened his room. On waking up, he saw an angel in the moonlight. The angel looked as beautiful as a lily in bloom. He observed closely that the angel was busy in writing something in a heavenly book, but he was unable to findout what the angel was writing.
Reference to the Context : These lines showing an incident that took place in the life of holy and virtuous man named Abou Ben Adhem who gave up physical world for serving mankind and living a spiritual life, have been extracted from the poem entitled Abou Ben Adhem, written by Leigh Hunt.
Here the poet narrates an incident taking place in life of Abou Ben Adhem who was not only a holy and virtuous man but also kind-hearted, sympathetic and compassionate for his fellow beings. Abou lived a spiritual life of a holy saint and served the distressed humanity.
Explanation : Once, there lived a holy and religious man. He was a true believer. He was noble, kind-hearted and sympathetic. He was the lover of human race. He loved his fellow beings and always helped them in their distress and sufferings. As he was free from all the prejudices and evils and did noble deeds, he felt great peace of mind. At night, he would enjoy a sound and peaceful sleep.One night, when he was sleeping peacefully in his room, a sparkling or dazzling light woke him up. On waking up, he found out the bright light was spreading in his room due to the presence of an angel. The light was like a lily that was going to blossom. (In fact it was a spiritual light. It was a kind of aura around the angel). Abou saw that the angel was writing something in the heavenly book.
Critical Comments :
- ‘Like bloom’ : The poet has used the figure of speech simile. The beautiful atmosphere of moonlit room has been compared to blooming lily.
- A book of gold : A heavenly book on which the deeds of human being are written for their reward after death.
- ‘Tribe’ has been used here in the sense of people of similar mindset as him.
- These lines are full of visual imagery and metaphors. They describe an awakening. ‘A deep dream of peace’ refers to a meditative, restful state that Abou Ben Adhem was in.
Word-meanings: Exceeding peace = there was great spiritual calmness and peace in the room ; extremely peaceful. Bold = courageous, daring. The presence = the angel who was present in the room with great spiritual illumination. Writest = writing. Thou = you. What ………thou = what are you writing. The vision = it also refers to the angel. A look ………accord = a look having sweet and soothing effect.
Paraphrase : On waking up from his sound and peaceful sleep, Abou saw that in his room a stranger was present. It was an angel. He was not least frightened at the sight of the angel. As he was a pious and noble soul, nothing could frighten him. The spiritual silence made him more courageous. But he seemed to be more curious to know what the angel was writing in his heavenly book. Without showing any sign of nervousness and hesitation, he asked the angel what he was writing in the book. The angel raised his head to throw a glance at Abou. Abou saw that the angel had a soothing effect on his face. The angel with a face that evoked kindness answered him that he was writing the names of all those who love God.
Reference to the Context: These lines showing how spirituality, nobility and goodness make a man bold and courageous enough to face any situation, have been extracted from the poem entitled Abou Ben Adhem, written by Leigh Hunt.
Here the poet tells us that those who follow the path of morality and nobility and always remain far from the prejudices and evils, are ever ready to face any situation with boldness and courage. The same thing seems to be true in the case of Abou. The presence of the angel in his room does not move him.
Explanation: As Abou was a noble and holy soul and lived a virtuous life, he was bold and courageous enough to face any circumstances. Next because of being a peace loving person, he was fully contented with his present life. A kind of peace always pervaded his room. This also helped him in being fearless. Hence, he was not least afraid of the heavenly presence in his room.
As a man of pure conscience, he mustered up courage to speak to the angel. He asked him what he was writing. The angel raised his head to look at him. Abou found that there was great serenity and calmness at the face of the angel. His face had a soothing effect. Instead of showing any sign of irritation and anger, the angel told Abou in a very sweet and gentle tone that he was writing the names of those who love God sincerely and truly.
Critical Comments :
- The peaceful atmosphere fills the mind with a kind of spiritual energy that helps us in being very calm even in the odd circumstances.
- ‘Tone accord’ : It refers to ‘a voice full of patience and kindness.’
- ‘What thou’ : The poet has used archaic words which refer ‘what are you writing’.
- The presence of a divine visitor makes feel a kind of peace and tranquility.
3. And is mine………………………fellow men.
Word-meanings : And ………one ? = in order to satisfy his curiosity, Abou asked the angel if there was his name in the list. Nay = No (obsolete word). Abou ………low = to hear this Abou was little bit shocked as he was true believer. But cheerly still = but he remained calm and cheerful as he was peace loving. Thee = you. I ………thee = I request you. Write………men = to put his name in the list of those who love and serve their fellow beings.
Paraphrase : As Abou Ben Adhem was a noble, kind-hearted and a man of pure conscience, he was encouraged to ask the angel if his name was also* included in the list of those who love God. The angel, in a very polite way and with the same peace-giving face, replied Abou that his name had not been added in the list. On hearing this Abou was little bit sad, but he was calm and cheerful. This matter did not move and discourage him as he did noble deeds for the welfare of his fellow beings. He then politely requested the angel to write his name as those who love God’s fellow men.
Reference to the Context: These lines showing Abou’s curiosity to know his name in the list as he was also true believer and had been loving and serving humanity, have been extracted from the poem entitled Abou BenAdhem, written by Leigh Hunt.
Here the poet tells us that as Abou was sacred and religious and was also a firm believer, he becomes curious to know about his name in the list and after knowing that he had not been included in the list, he remains calm and satisfied with his present.
Explanation : Abou’s pure conscience and nobility encouraged him to ask about his name in the list. He also seemed to be very curious to know about his name in the list as he lived a life of morality and nobility. Hence he asked the angel if his name had been included in the list of those who love God truly and sincerely. The angel replied in negative. On hearing this Abou was little bit sad, but he was not disappointed and disheartened. The next moment, he cheerfully requested the angel to write his name as the one who loved, served and cared for his fellow beings. Abou seemed to be satisfied with this.
Critical Comments :
- I pray then : The poet has used the figure of speech alliteration.
- Here the poet conveys a truth to us that those who are virtuous and noble always maintain calmness and patience. Holy souls are self controlled.
- Holy souls are satisfied with what they possess.
4. The Angel………………………all the rest.
Word-meanings : Vanished = disappeared. It = ‘It’ refers to the angel. Wakening light = the more sparkling light which distracts someone ; the spritual light which has a great illumination. God had blest = the people who had been blessed by God. Let………rest = in this competition of writing the names in the list of God, Abou left all behind and stood first; Abou’s name was on the top of the list.
Paraphrase : When Abou Ben Adhem requested the angel to write his name as the one who loved his fellow men, the angel without saying a word, wrote something in the book and disappeared. The next night, he came again with a still glistening light and displayed the names of those who had been
blessed by God. It was strange but true that Abou found his name on the top of the list. In this competition of getting God’s favour and His blessings, Abou left the others behind him and succeeded to win God’s favour. In this way, Abou proved that the true worship is to serve God, is to love, care and serve his creatures. Human being is the best and the most beautiful creation of God. Hence everyone should love God’s creatures.
Reference to the Context: These lines giving more importance to loving, serving and caring the humanity than worshipping God, have been extracted from the poem entitled Abou Ben Adhem, written by Leigh Hunt.
Here, the poet through the example of Abou Ben Adhem moralises that serving and caring humanity is to worship God. God is always pleased with those who serve their fellow beings selflessly.
Explanation : Abou requested politely to the angel to write his name in the list of those who love and serve their fellow beings. The angel, without paying any heed to Abou, wrote something in his heavenly book and disappeared from there. This incident did not affect Abou and he remained calm and satisfied as usual. He did not bother about the next happening. He was wholly unaware of the reward which he was going to receive. The next night, the angel appeared again in Abou’s room with the same aura and dazzling light which distracted Abou and he woke up. The angel exhibited the names of those who were blessed by God. Abou saw that his name was on the top of the list and it led all the rest. Indeed it was selfless love of Abou for his fellow beings that he had become the most favourite and the dearest to God. He received God’s blessings and His love as His true and sincere devotee.
Critical Comments :
- Here, we see a ‘great wakening light’-so bright that it rouses Abou awake. On a metamorphic level, this speaks of an enlightenment.
- Those who are loving, caring and gentle to God’s creatures and return good for evil and subdue their passions and forget themselves for this, receive a great reward from God in the form of His Love.
- The poet brings charm and idealism to his interpretation of religion that finds more virtue in acts of compassion rather than just faith.
- The poet, through the incident related to Abou’s life, imparts a teaching that we should love our fellow men if we want to be blessed by God’s love.
Abou Ben Adhem Summary About the Poet
James Henry Leigh Hunt, Popularly known as Leigh Hunt was bom on October 19, 1784 in Southgate, Middlesex, England. He was the son of a clergyman. He was educated at Christ Hospital. He was the English essanyist, critic, jounalist and the poet. He was an editor of influential journals in an age when the periodical was at the height of its power. He was also a friend and supparter of the poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Hearts. Hunt‘s poems, of which ‘Abou Ben Adhem’ and his ‘Jenny Kissedme’ (both first published in 1838). an probably the best known, rejlect his knowledge of French and Italians unsification. His defense of Keats’ work in the Examiner (June 1817) as ‘Poetry for its won sake’ was an important anticipation of the veiws of the Aesthetic movement.
Hunt, at his best, in some essays and his Autobiography (1850; in part a rewriting of Lond Byrou and Some of His Contemporaries, (1928), has a distinctive charm. He excels in perceptive judgments of his contemporaries, from keats to Alfred, Lord Tennyson. As a Radical journalist, though not much interested in the details of politics, he attacked oppression with indignation.
The poems in Juvenilia (1801), his first volume, show his love for Italian literature. He looked to Italy for a ‘free spirit of verification’ and translated a great deal of Italian poetry and in The Story of Rimini (1816), published in the year of his meeting with Keats, he reintroduced a freedom of movement in English couplet verse lost in the 18th century. From him Keats derived his delight in colour and imaginative sensnal experience and a first acquaintance with Italian poetry. Much of Hunt’s best verse was published in Foliage (1818) and Hero and leader, and Bacchus and Aridne (1819)
In 1808, Leigh Hunt and his brother John had launched the weekly Examiner, which advocated abolition of the slave trade, Catholic emancipation and reform of Parliament and the Criminal law. For their attack on the unpopular prince regent, the brothers were imprisoned in 1813. Leigh Hunt, who continued to write The Examiner in prison, was regarded as a martyr in the cause of liberty. After his release (1815) he moved to Hampstead, home of Keats, whom he introduced in 1817 to shelley, a friend since 1811. The Examiner supported the new Romantic poets against attack by Blackwood’s magazine on what it called ‘the Cockney school of poetry,’ supposedly led by Hunt. He died on August 28, 1859 in Putney, London.