By Robert Frost

An ant on the tablecloth
Ran into a dormant moth
Of many times his size.
He showed not the least surprise.
His business wasn’t with such.
He gave it scarcely a touch,
And was off on his duty run.
Yet if he encountered one
Of the hive’s enquiry squad
Whose work is to find out God
And the nature of time and space,
He would put him onto the case.
Ants are a curious race;
One crossing with hurried tread
The body of one of their dead
Isn’t given a moment’s arrest-
Seems not even impressed.
But he no doubt reports to any
With whom he crosses antennae,
And they no doubt report
To the higher-up at court.
Then word goes forth in Formic:
“Death’s come to Jerry McCormic,
Our selfless forager Jerry.
Will the special Janizary
Whose office it is to bury
The dead of the commissary
Go bring him home to his people.
Lay him in state on a sepal.
Wrap him for shroud in a petal.
Embalm him with ichor of nettle.
This is the word of your Queen.”
And presently on the scene
Appears a solemn mortician;
And taking formal position,
With feelers calmly atwiddle,
Seizes the dead by the middle,
And heaving him high in air,
Carries him out of there.
No one stands round to stare.
It is nobody else’s affair
It couldn’t be called ungentle
But how thoroughly departmental

 Summary of Departmental

  • Popularity of “Departmental”: The poem ‘Departmental’ was written by Robert Frost, a great American poet and writer. The poem is melodious and also representative of dutiful performers. It first appeared in his poetic collection, North of Boston, in 1914. This extended metaphorical poem presents the situation of a dead ant and the rituals performed in the ant colony with the Queen’s ordering the burial and the other tasks to be performed with decorum. The unique poetic quality of the piece lies in the use of heroic couplets, transforming the poem into a lyric.
  • “Departmental” As a Representative of Departmental Working: The poem introduces an ant running into a careless and sleeping moth, it keeps itself to itself and goes on to its work after it comes across a beehive and moves to the dead body of another ant. Soon, it reports it to the higher-ups who declare it dead and order the burial of the dead. The Queen comes forward with the orders and the whole ant colony swings into action. The work goes within the parameters of the standard operating procedures without any hindrance, and soon the dead are buried with full fanfare. Although this is a simple allegorical type of poet, it shows the poet’s deep observation as well as departmental work in real life.
  • Major Themes in “Departmental”: Specialized behavior, departmental working, and dutiful situations are three major thematic strands of this poem. The poem has beautifully presented a dutiful ant and her working in the condition when one of their comrades is dead. She immediately communicates this information to the bureaucracy and the situation is brought under control. This specialized behavior is also the hallmark of human beings and organizations established by them. The departments work exactly like that in a hierarchical manner and the duties are performed in a routine.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Departmental

literary devices are unique strategies the poets have at their disposal to make their poetic pieces interesting and worth reading. The analysis of these devices in the poem is given below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /e/ in “Yet if he encountered one”, the sound of /oo/ in “Whose work is to find out God” and the sound of /a/ in “An ant on the tablecloth.”
  2. Allegory: The poem shows the story of an ant and the working of the ant colony to demonstrate his understanding of the human world. This is an allegorical poetic story.
  3. Alliteration: It is a device that means to use words in quick succession having initials consonants such as the sound of /w/ in “wasn’t with” or /h/ in “him home.”
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /s/ and /t/ in “He showed not the least surprise”, the sound of /t/ in “But he no doubt reports to any” and the sounds of /s/ and /m/ in “Appears a solemn mortician.”
  5. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

It is nobody else’s affair
It couldn’t be called ungentle
But how thoroughly departmental.

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. The poem shows the use of imagery such as “An ant on the tablecloth”, “Of many times his size” and “The dead of the commissary.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different. The poem shows the use of the extended metaphor of the ant colony and the burial of the dead.
  3. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from literal meanings. The poem shows the use of the symbols of journey, death, beehive, and moth to show how the system works.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Departmental

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction and Tone: The poem shows the use of figurative diction with a sarcastic tone.
  2. Heroic Couplet: The poem shows the use of heroic couplets .
  3. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the AABB rhyming scheme until the end.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. It is a single-stanza poem.

Quotes to be Used

These lines from ‘Departmental’ are relevant to quote when teaching about how to concentrate on something at hand.

Of many times his size.
He showed not the least surprise.
His business wasn’t with such.
He gave it scarcely a touch.

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