In the course of everyday chores, time and again, the six questions of the riddling knight make me fall into deep contemplation as all the couplets, excepting the first line of the last couplet, delve straight into human reality I deduce. Even more importantly, I feel greatly agitated by the truth incorporated in the first couplet and their interrelation among all the lines in the couplets. Let me present in the lines below :
O what is louder nor the horn,
Or what is sharper nor the thorn?
Both these lines are connected with fundamental human dignity as well as human existence, respectively. Let’s now observe their answers that, I expect, shall make my point clear.
O shame is louder nor a horn,
And hunger is sharper nor a thorn.
Because shame is such a conception that is abstract, biologically superfluous, so that is only concerned with man’s supposition. Or, in other words, it is envisioned that the absence of shame only makes a natural or proper or dignified man, which is hardly possible. Otherwise, they are simply homo because man is a man true if only he observes certain norms, manners, etiquette that together in one word is called discipline. At least, minimum of the standard of the place where he dwells or roams around, which then distinguishes him from the animal. For this, categorically stated, he must keep the cleanliness of the body and wear appropriate clothing.
Here, I am using ‘he,’ which means to say ‘humans’ as a whole for ease of reference.
He must adequately discharge nature’s call and other personal, familial, social, and other obligations of living. Yes, he must be bound with these values as a citizen of the nation. If otherwise, his status as a man shall be rendered as he maintains his discipline.
Norms and value bounding of humans is the reason why men/women in society belong to different hierarchical orders. And as depicted in the aesthetically woven linguistic structure, the line states that the society as well objects badly if anyone fails to maintain the humanly discipline and that is circulated as if a horn is blared!
Another unavoidable but undetectable aspect of the fact is that this shame or its opposite, i.e., suitable manner, is closely associated with hunger. In other words, all manly dignities can only be maintained if man’s appetite is satisfied. Or else, man is bound first to quench hunger that is directly connected with his survival.
Since man is a living being subsisted on food, he is compelled to find food in whatever condition. Hence if he could not find food in agreeable ways, he is obligated to commit anything that may incur no matter whatever the degree of shame.
Hunger is his first and foremost preference as a living being. Only after that is maintained can he think of any quality of humanity- humility, decency, suitable manner, culture, kindness, or else.
A Sanskrit language verse has very scholarly stated this earthly truth:
“बुभुक्षित नरं किं नकरोति पापं/ buvukshita naram kim nakaroti paapam.” It literally translates, “Why won’t a hungry man(commit a) sin?”
In the English language, too, we find several sayings about sin or shame driven by hunger. Some are worth examination: “A hungry man is an angry man.” And an angry man superseded by hunger can commit any wrong, causing him any degree of scandal and shame.
Next, “Hunger drives the wolf out of the wood.”
Since the wolf is a very clever wild beast of prey, he is a sworn enemy for man and they kill him at first sight. So he would never come out of the wood, staking his own life. But if hungry, one is ready to commit whatever action that may bring whatever the stake.
For, until and unless hunger is satisfied, there is no life. If no life, there will be no question of decency or dignity, humanity or humility. Because without survival, there will be no life and without satisfying the hunger, there will be no survival. Consequently, satisfying hunger is the unavoidable condition to make a man a man.
Another remarkable fact seems the level of satisfaction being tied with the condition of his living style. In turn, that is the level of one’s level of shame or honor. Hence, shame seems like the mercury inside a barometer that keeps fluctuating with the temperature of satisfying his hunger, particularly the way of satisfaction. To rephrase it, shame and hunger are together with a man as his soul just camouflaged, ready to jump out at the slight node of his doing. One is physical; the other is mental or in fact, conceptual. For those who are censored for their misdoing was the result of their hunger, wasn’t it?
May I put it in instead at length? Hunger is the driving force lying in all living beings. Had not there been hunger in them, they need not have to move or act. The whole civilization we see around us is the result of man’s hunger. Well, it further appears that human hunger is of many kinds. Hunger for basic needs like food, clothes, shelter, sex; hunger for love and compassion; hunger for pride or praise that is for ambition; hunger for invention and achievement and simultaneously hunger for their quality and sophistication. Owing to the outcomes of hunger, there will be more hunger for statecraft, strategies, theories and philosophies, wars and weapons and so on and on.
At the same time, I like to believe that hunger is followed by shame or significance. Most human activities entail consequences that may be favorable for some and unfavorable for others.
Next, human hunger for anything, food or wealth, achievement or honor, pleasure or sex or anything, is never satiated. Instead, it increases with every bit of acquirement. Hence man is prone to cross overall limits of dignity, thereby accruing shame or disgrace for himself.
Recapitulate, I only wonder, even greatly marvel at the poet’s great genius that knowingly or unknowingly he has illustrated a significant fact employing simple couplets. It is a natural process that the two great truths should appear together like twins possessing a vast expanse of meaning in them, as does a seed!
Simultaneously, it may be an implicit reminder of the poet to man, the superior being of the world, that he had better try to have more significance than shame in every performance following his hunger. Shall he care to do so?
I like to believe that these kinds of hunger are followed by shame or significance. Most human activities entail one or another consequence that may be favorable for some and unfavorable for others.