Analyze the poem by Sir John Squire,"There was an Indian."

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Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem by Sir John Squire, a sonnet, which begins with the opening line "There was an Indian" is about a Native American coming upon the landing of Christopher Columbus and his party “along a sunlit beach.” The land and its people are about to undergo dramatic change in the years ahead as Europeans descend on the continent and transform the culture and society of the Native Americans.

This Indian of the poem has led a rather peaceful life in his element. He has “known no change” and is probably happy to carry on so, steeped in his traditions. He is content in his station in life and is not really seeking variation, although change is coming whether he likes it or not.

The Indian is prospering quite nicely in his pristine, natural environment, and is enjoying his walk along the quiet bay. However, he is rattled by the appearance of huge ships, in comparison to the canoes he is used to using. He is also confronted by the “fluttering coloured signs and clambering crews.” This represents an upset to his quiet and ordered way of life and he doesn’t know what to make of this commotion, and to him, this intrusion on his homeland.

Therefore, the Indian is in fear. It is the fear of the unknown. It is a fear that things may change for the worse for him and that what is now happening is beyond his control. This force before him ready to land is something that he is uncertain of how to deal with. This leads to him hiding behind a stone as he contemplates what is happening. He sees but does not comprehend the significance of this event. He just knows that his existence may be challenged by the seamen who are ready to land and stake their claim on this shore.

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jmj616 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sir John Squire (1882-1958) in his poem "There was an Indian," describes Columbus's discovery of America from the point of view of an Indian (Native American).

The poem begins by describing the Indian as a person "who had known no change"--his way of life had not changed for centuries.  When he sees Columbus's ships approaching he gasps, because he has never seen anything like them before.  He can only describe them as "huge canoes" that have "bellying cloths on poles" (sails on masts) and "fluttering coloured signs" (flags).

The Indian fears what he sees; his lips turn pale, and he hides behind a stone and stares at the ships.  He sees, but does "not understand, / Columbus's doom-burdened caravels."  Caravels are small, light sailing ships, like Columbus's.  They are referred to as "doom-burdened" because the appearance of Europeans eventually led to the near-annihilation of the Native Americans.

muzhdah | Student

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nadranaj | Student

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