Explain the lines "may the poison purify your flesh of desire and your spirit of ambition" from stanza 4 of the poem "Night of the Scorpion" by Nissim Ezekiel.

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This poem is by an Indian poet, Nissim Ezekiel , and it reflects Indian culture. A woman, the poet's mother, has been bitten by a scorpion and its poison is flowing through her body. Holy men come in and pray over the woman to cure her. The line you refer to...

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This poem is by an Indian poet, Nissim Ezekiel, and it reflects Indian culture. A woman, the poet's mother, has been bitten by a scorpion and its poison is flowing through her body. Holy men come in and pray over the woman to cure her. The line you refer to is part of their prayer:

May he sit still, they said.
May the sins of your previous birth
be burned away tonight, they said.
May your suffering decrease
the misfortunes of your next birth, they said.
May the sum of all evil
balanced in this unreal world
against the sum of good
become diminished by your pain.
May the poison purify your flesh
of desire, and your spirit of ambition,

They are hoping for the mother to be cured, but just in case she is not, they are praying for her as she goes into the next world, and is reincarnated (part of the Indian's beliefs). This line means that if she is to die from the poison, at least let it purify her of any sin so that when she is reincarnated, she won't come back to life as a cockroach or some lower form of life. Hindus believe that if one does not live a good life, he will be reincarnated as a lower form.

I think this line is ironic, though, because the mother does not have any "flesh of desire" or "spirit of ambition" because in the end, she thanks God for the fact that the scorpion bit her and not her children.

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As with the previous question, the context remains the same.  The villagers have come to gather in the home of the woman who has been stung by the scorpion.  Understandably, she is enduring intense pain.  The poison from the sting is coursing through her veins and there is little anyone can do to alleviate what unspeakable difficulty she has to withstand.  The villagers speak to this condition in offering what is almost like a hymn or prayer for her soul.  It is apparent that the villagers believe in Hinduism, or the specific belief that the soul is immortal and will pass on even after the body dies.  The soul will have to undergo more births in order to achieve a stage of moksha, or redemptive liberation, as it seeks to recognize the universality of Atman, the true essence.  This rebirth process is one that seeks to "get it right" and does so through what has been done in previous births.  What has been done good and noble helps to bring one closer to this true essence.  What has been done which is evil and malevolent moves one away from it, causing one to have to endure more births to acknowledge the true essence of which the villagers believe all humans are an inseparable part.

May the poison purify your flesh
of desire, and your spirit of ambition,

The villagers acknowledge that the poison is painful.  Their belief is that the endurance of such pain is what will allow the woman's soul to be purified, preparing her way towards a redemptive end.  At the same time, they believe that some karmic alignment or force has ordained that she endure the pain of the poison to balance out any bad deeds that she might have undertaken in this life or her previous ones.  This purification is what the villagers believe the value of the poison to be.

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