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The Sower

Poem: The Sower by Victor Hugo

Title: The Sower

    ‘The Sower’ is a translation of Victor Hugo’s French poem. It is translated by Toru Dutt from French to English. ‘The Sower’ is a poem about a farmer who is sowing seeds. He has seen many bad harvests in his life. However, he is so optimistic of having a good harvest every time he tosses grain. The Sower is the central aspect of this poem and the poet minutely describes his activities in the farm.

Poet: Victor Hugo

He was the poet, novelist, and dramatist of the 19th century. He was one of the most important French Romantic writers.

He is regarded in France as one of the country’s greatest poets. He is better known for his famous novels as ”Notre-Dame de Paris”(1831) and “Les Miserables” (1862).

Translated by: Torulata Dutt

Torulata Dutt was a Bengali poet. She was also known as Toru. She wrote in English and French.

She is considered to be ‘The first Indian poetess’ to write verses in English and French. She translated dozens of poems and completed a novel before her death at the age of 21. Her poems such as ‘Seeta’, ‘Lotus’ and ‘Our Casuarina Tree’ are well-praised.

Ice Breakers Activities:

(i) Make a list of words related to agriculture.


Words related to agriculture are-

Plough, weeding, harvest, sowing, cultivating, farmer, farm, crop, fertilizers, grain, seeds, soil, yield, irrigation, tilling, planting, harrowing, reaping, manure

(ii) Discuss the activities carried out by a farmer.


Ploughing- नांगरणी
Sowing – पेरणी
Manuring- खत देणे
Weeding- तण काढणे
Reaping- कापणी / धान्य काढणे

(iii) In our country engineering, teaching and medical fields are much sought after. Other professions, occupations though they make a significant contribution to the society, do not get their due.


a) FarmerHighly unpredictable economic gains.
b) Conservancy workersNo protective clothing for handling waste, Lack of security measures. No respect for the service they provide.
c) Domestic workersLack of job security and good income.
d) Sales personsExtensive travelling, long working hours, no guarantee of sufficient income.
e) Factory WorkersLow wages, unpredictable working hours, unhygienic atmosphere and risk  of life while handling the machinery.

(ii) ‘Agriculture is the backbone of the Indian economy’. Fill in the boxes supporting this statement. Complete the following web diagram. 

A large part of Indian population is involved in agriculture.      Agriculture-
the back- bone of India  


A large part of Indian population is involved in agriculture.      Agriculture- the back- bone of India  Provides employment to large number of people in India
Provides sufficient food grains and other needy things.Gives strong support to Indian economy. Helps to increase GDP.


Porchwaya veranda व्हरांडा
Twilightlighted area before dusk संधिप्रकाश
Hastensmoving fast वेगाने जाणे
Well- nighalmost completed जवळ जवळ पूर्ण
Sowerthe person who plants the seed पेरणी करणारा
Lingersstays a bit रेंगाळतो
Ragsold and torn clothes जुने फाटके कपडे
Silhouetteoutline of someone बाह्याकार
Furrowsline, channel नांगराने केलेला चर
Preciousvaluable मौल्यवान
Muserest in thought विचारात गुंग होणे
Strideto walk with long steps लांब पावलं टाकत जाणे
Augustnoble, dignified, impressive भव्य
Dominatescommands अधिराज्य गाजवतो
Gesturesmovements   हालचाली

Poem is based on:

The Farming and the life of a farmer is the central idea of the poem and the poet gives his feelings for the farmer along with the detailed description about the nature around the farmer.

Paraphrase of the poem:- The Sower

“Sitting in a porchway………………working hours are well night past.”

The poet is sitting peacefully in the veranda. He is enjoying the sunset. He describes the presence of twilight. ‘The twilight hastens on to rule’ the line suggests the overpower of the twilight over the light of the day. It is a time between the day and night. Day is fading and night is approaching. ‘Working hours are well – nigh past’ this line suggests the time of work in the fields is now over. Soon it is going to be night and dark all around.

“Shadow……………………… I feel a thrill”

During the twilight, shadows are spreading all around the area. In such time, the poet sees a farmer who is standing alone in the fields. He is staying a bit there. ‘Old, in rags, he patient stands’ this line gives the appearance of the Sower. The Sower is old and his cloths are tattered. He is standing peacefully in the field. The poet is so much thrilled to see his calm and peaceful appearance in the field.

“Black and high……………… a time to reap”

Since it is a twilight time everything appears to be blackish. ‘Silhouette’ is the French word. It means the outline of the Sower. The black shadow of the Sower is dominating the deep furrows in the fields. Since the sun is setting the silhouette gradually becomes bigger and bigger thus even the deep furrows seem to be small in front of the Sower. Here the human aspects is shown powerful and dominating over the nature. In the next line, ‘now to sow……a time to reap’, the farmer is hoping for a good harvest in future. He is sowing and expecting that seeds will grow, the grains will appear and all his wishes will be fulfilled.

“Marches he along the plain………to see him stride”

The poet describes the movement of the farmer and his actions in the field. The poet appears the farmer as marching like a soldier. It shows his strong determination and positive attitude towards his work. The farmer moves forward and backward scattering the precious grains which are both a symbol of prosperity and wealth of future. The grain is called ‘precious grains’ because each and every grain is important in the life of a farmer. The poet thinks deeply about the Sower’s hard efforts.

“Darkness deepens………………touch the starry skies”

          Here the poet describes the night sky. The twilight gradually turns to night. Everywhere the darkness appears. Now the poet speaks about the gestures of the Sower. The poet feels the majestic and inspiring image of the Sower. The gradual and progressive growth of the shadow of the Sower reaches the top of the sky. The poet feels reverence to the hardworking farmer. He glorifies the work of the Sower and considers his work as noble. Sower’s work gives him such height/ importance that he can touch the sky.

Brain storming activities.

1. There are a number of challenges a farmer in India faces. Discuss with your partner. How it is possible to improve the condition of farmers?


Sr. NoChallengesSolutions
1)Water scarcity.Rainwater harvesting
2)Credit and in-debtedness.Providing bank loans on low interest.
3)Land issues.Stopping soil erosion, implementing watershed management. Providing good knowledge of crop management.
4)Climatic changes.Providing proper forecast of climate.
5)Social groups.Farmers should get support from the social groups to choose proper crops and good market to sell them.
6)Lack of advanced technology.Government or private sector should provide new techniques and instruments to develop the farming.
7)Diversification.Provision of agricultural insurance to give security to the farmers. Give good knowledge about using variety of crops in the farm.
8)Market risks.Government should control the market prices. There should be assurance of minimum fixed price to farmers’ products.

2. The poet has observed the sower closely. Express in your own words the reverence the poet has for the sower.


The poet realizes that the old farmer is staying a bit in the farm. The poet fills thrill seeing that he does not end his work just because others have ended their work. The poet feels wonder and respect at his dark working figure. The poet is lost in thoughts (muses) and expresses the importance of the farmer’s work. He declares that his work touches the starry skies (as his work provides food to all). All these show that the poet has observed the sower closely and he has reverence for him. 

3. The poet is prompted to call the sower an ‘august personality’ which means- ‘one who has reached the highest position in his work place’.

Explain this using the following points.

i) Hard work

ii) Perseverance

iii) Dedication


i) Hard work: The sower is termed as an august personality’ by the poet due to his hard-working nature. The sower continues his work well beyond the working hours. Though the daytime is over, he carries on with his work.

ii) Perseverance: The sower’s perseverance can be seen when he marches along the plain to and fro with a determination to sow the seeds and hopes for a good harvest.

iii) Dedication: The dedication of the sower can be seen when he takes the seeds and scattered all around, so that the seeds give him good yield.


(i) Pick out the examples of alliteration from the poem and write them down.


Examples of Alliteration:

1) Sitting in a porchway cool,

Sunlight, I see, dying fast,

2) Working hours have well-nigh past.

3) But a sower lingers still,

4) Black and high, his silhouette

5) Dominates the furrows deep!

6) Now to sow the task is set.

7) From his hands the precious grain;

8) Darkness deepens. Fades the light.

9) Are august; and strange; his height

10) Seems to touch the starry skies.

(ii) ‘Seems to touch the starry skies’. The poet has used word imagery. Describe  the idea and pick out other similar examples from the poem.


Imagery can be defined as a writer or speaker’s use of words or sentences to create a vivid mental picture or physical sensation.

Examples of Imagery:

1) Sitting in a porchway cool.

2) Sunlight, I see, dying fast.

3) Twilight hastens on to rule.

4) Shadows run across the lands.

5) Old, in rags, he patient stands.

6) Black and high, his silhouette.

7) Dominates the furrows deep.

8) Marches he along the plain.

9) Darkness deepens. Fades the light.

5. Poetic appreciation

Write an appreciation of the poem ‘The Sower:


About the poem:

The poem ‘The Sower’ is a translation of Victor Hugo’s French poem by Toru Dutt to English. It is a poem about the hard work and persistence of the sower.

The poet: Poet Victor Hugo was the famous poet, novelist, and dramatist of the 19th century. He was one of the most important French Romantic writers.

The title:

The title ‘Sower’ shows the work of a farmer. The poet observes his actions and expresses his respect for the former who is doing this noble task.  


The poem is woven around the theme of the farmer sowing his land. He seeks neither help nor company but does his work till dark. Poet’s respect for the work of farmer is the central idea of this poem.

Poetic devices, language, style:

The poet has used the figures of speech like Alliteration, Antithesis, Hyperbole, Inversion, Personification, Repetition etc. The figurative use of poetic language makes the poem beautiful. The word imagery ‘Shadows run across the lands’ presents clear picture of natural phenomenon. The rhyme-scheme is ‘a b a b’ which provide a pleasing rhythm. The word picture of the sower gives a real visualization of the hard work and attitude of the farmer.

Special features / novelties / focussing elements:

The poem shows the good qualities like determination, hard work, perseverance etc. It shows the hard work of the farmer. The poem enhances the respect for the farmer.

Values, message:

The poem gives the message that one should keep working with a positive attitude in life as it brings good results in the future.

My opinion about the poem:

I like the poem very much. It presents the positive and respectful picture of the farmer. I also appreciate the qualities of the farmer which are depicted in this poem. I want to acquire these qualities and positive approach to develop my life. I also realise the worth of the farmer’s work. 

6. Write the rhyming words of the poem-‘The Sower’.


1) cool-rule
2) fast-past
3) lands-stands
4) still-thrill
5) silhouette-set
6) deep-reap
7) plain-grain
8) wide-stride
9) light-height
10) eyes-skies

See More-

Poem- Nose versus Eyes

Prose- Being Neighborly

Prose- On to the Summit

Prose- Mrs. Adis


History of English Drama

The Rising of the Moon

A Mid- summer Night’s Dream

An Enemy of the People

Activity No. 1

Q. Read the extract and complete the activities given below.

Sitting in a porch way cool,
Sunlight, I see, dying fast,
Twilight hastens on to rule.
Working hours have well-nigh past.
Shadows run across the lands:
But a sower lingers still,
Old, in rags, he patient stands.
Looking on, I feel a thrill.
Black and high, his silhouette
Dominates the furrows deep!
Now to sow the task is set.
Soon shall come a time to reap.
Marches he along the plain
To and fro, and scatters wide
From his hands the precious grain;
Muse I, as I see him stride.
Darkness deepens. Fades the light.
Now his gestures to mine eyes
Are august; and strange; his height
Seems to touch the starry skies.

A1. Express (2)

The poet has observed the sower closely. Express in your own words the reverence the poet has for the sower.

A2. Explain (2)

Explain the line: ‘Old, in rags, he patient stands.’

A3. Personal response (2)

Give a list of the essential things required for sowing seeds in the farm.

A4. Poetic devices (2)

Find and write any two examples of personification from the poem. Give their explanation.

A5. Poetic creativity (2)

Add two poetic lines to make the rhyme scheme: a b a b

Sitting in a porch way cool,

Sunlight, I see, dying fast,



See more activities and their model answers in the following book:


Activity Workbook for Std. XI English

Price – Rs. 280

Courier / Postage Rs. 50

Total Rs. 330

Send message to –

Prof. Tushar Chavan 9850737199

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