Literature of English has become part of the KBSM syllabus in Malaysian education system The introduction to Poems, Short Stories and Drama for Form 4 and 5 students by the Ministry of Education states that the main objectives of the Literature Component are to encourage students ‘to appreciate creative language use and culture diversities, respond to literary texts and express their own views confidently and succinctly’.

This blog focuses on one the poems, ‘He Had Such Quiet Eyes’ by Bibsy Soenharj. It will help students to inculcate a love of reading and encourage them to enjoy literature the way it should be enjoyed. Apart from learners, educators can use the blog as an alternative creative teaching technique to gauge students’ interest.


Lesson 1

Do you know what is poetry? Read the comprehensive explanation and explore on the wonderful site on types of poem 

[A poem] begins in delight and ends in wisdom.  ~Robert Frost, “The Figure a Poem Makes,” Collected Poems of Robert Frost, 1939 


Poetry is a genre that is very different from prose and drama. Poetry is an imaginative awareness of experience expressed through meaning, sound, and rhythmic language choices so as to evoke an emotional response.

There are as many definitions of poetry as there are poets. Wordsworth defined poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings;” Emily Dickinson said, “If I read a book and it makes my body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry;” and Dylan Thomas defined poetry this way: “Poetry is what makes me laugh or cry or yawn, what makes my toenails twinkle, what makes me want to do this or that or nothing.”

Poetry is a lot of things to a lot of people. Homer’s epic, The Oddysey, described the wanderings of the adventurer, Odysseus, and has been called the greatest story ever told. During the English Renaissance, dramatic poets like John Milton, Christopher Marlowe, and of course Shakespeare gave us enough to fill textbooks, lecture halls, and universities. Poems from the romantic period include Goethe’s Faust (1808), Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” and John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn.”


Click on Types of Poem for detailed elaboration on the various kinds of poetry.





Lesson 2

Do you know the difference between the literal and figurative meaning of this poem? As you enjoy listening to this video presentation, take note of the meaning conveyed.  


Click on the video for the musical presentation of the poem


Stanza 1

Literal Meaning

The persona, a young girl falls for the charms of a man and she trusts him. He makes her feel he is in love with her and so she thinks she is truly in love too. His eyes look sincere. She is not aware that he would betray her. He has begged her with breathless sighs to be good to him, to surrender and give herself completely.

Figurative Meaning

Meeting people and getting involved in a social relationship is part and parcel of life. We accept some of them as we think they are sincere. However, along the way, we may meet two-faced people with ulterior motives. Sometimes, they may come across as so sincere that we innocently accept them without doubts. Despite their deceitful intensions, we could be blinded by our naïve belief.

Stanza 2


Literal Meaning

The persona experiences betrayal of her feelings of love and belief in a man’s sincerity. She realizes she should have listened to advice of not believing in men who are charmers and want only physical pleasures. She would not be agonizing about why and how she let this happen to her.

Figurative meaning

There are people who will betray social or business relationships. Hence, one should be careful of other party’s motives. We should be more selective and listen to advice about being wary of con men and scums. In any case, do not compromise on your principals, as someone who is sincere would not force you into giving up your morals.

Stanza 3

Literal Meaning

The poet advises young ladies to be more careful before getting involved in relationships with men. Learn to differentiate sincerity and falsehood. They will eventually meet the right man though they may lose their hearts a few times.

Figurative meaning
It is not a must for us to show our love for someone through physical intimacy. All in all, it is always good to be cautious before committing to a relationship to avoid serious consequences.

(Adapted from Light on Lit Form 4 Selected Poems, Short Stories and Drama, Christine Tan & Rodney Tan, 2010, Longman)

Lesson 3

This blog focusess on the literary elements found in the poem. In this lesson the elements are stated clearly below. Can you find examples and evidence from the poem and link them to these elements?


He had such quiet eyes

She did not realize

They were two pools of lies

Layered with thinnest ice

To her, those quiet eyes

Were breathing desolate sighs

Imploring her to be nice

And to render him paradise


If only she’d been wise

And had listened to the advice

Never to compromise

With pleasure seeking guys

She’d be free from ‘the hows and whys’


Now here’s a bit of advice

Be sure that nice really mean nice

Then you’ll never be losing at dice

Though you may lose your heart once or twice.


  • Betrayal of love
  • Relationships that are meaningful
  • Take advice
  • Maintain your dignity

 Point of View

  • Second person point of view

Language and Style

  • Honest, simple and easy to understand


  • Reflective
  • Sad and Happy


  • Understanding and Sympathetic

 Poetic Devices

  • Imagery
  • Alliteration
  • Diction
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Symbols
  • Personification
  • Idioms
  • Metaphor
  • Repetition

 Moral Value

  • Don’t be naïve and believe everything we are told especially in matters of the heart.
  • We must be careful when choosing friends.
  • Falling in love is normal but one should be careful.
  • We must learn from the experiences of other people.

 Gain more insights on Elements of Poetry…..Click on these sites below 

Elements of Poetry 1 

Elements of Poetry 2

Lesson 4

A) Themes

Have you wondered why themes emerge in poems? What is your understanding of theme?

What is theme:   –   Controlling Idea:  The theme of a literary work.  The controlling idea of a poem is the idea continuously developed throughout the poem by sets of key words that identify the poet’s subject and his attitude or feeling about it.  It may also be suggested by the title of a poem or by segment of the poem.  It is rarely stated explicitly by the poet, but it can be stated by the reader and it can be stated in different ways.  The controlling idea is an idea, not a moral; it is a major idea, not a minor supporting idea or detail; and it controls or dominates the poem as a whole

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Main theme  of the poem, “He Had Such Quiet Eyes”  is exploration of human feelings through the sharing of experiences

Betrayal of Love

The man makes the girl believe that he is in love with her and even begs her to surrender to him. She believes him because of his quiet eyes which to her signal sincerity. But, he betrays her after she has accepted him completely.

Relationships that are meaningful

These relationships can be cultivated if one is careful and wise before starting relationships. Such relationships should be based on true feelings not physical attractions.

Take advice

Listen to other people too and not your own heart all the time. The experiences of others will help you especially when facing uncertainties in relationships but you must be ready to accept the fact that others may just know better than you.

Maintain your dignity

You do not have to always please others. Take care of your needs first. If you have to do something for others which you are not comfortable with, say no! Otherwise your dignity and happiness may be at stake.

Hope you’ve got a clearer picture now. In groups of four, choose one theme and discuss in depth how you can relate to your own experiences…..

Lesson 5

B) Point of View

It is quite difficult for students to determine the point of view. Here is a brief explanation on the three different types of views.

The job of the poet is to bring the reader/listener into the position of the poet; make them the creator of the action. Each step away from total involvement creates distance from the action. While some experts have written poems with great fluency while changing the ‘person’ of the poem, the poet should be extremely careful about attempting such a feat. Until one achieves some expertise, the point of view is better kept within one person.

1st person – Gives immediacy and intimacy, sympathy is more intense. Drawback to 1st person use is that the poet can only write what he/she personally knows or sees.

2nd person – Rarely used but possible. It tends to make the reader (you) average either by idealizing or typicalizing the focus of the verse. Second person use in poetry almost seems instructional.

3rd person – The narrator of poem may be omniscient, reporting the thoughts of several characters or limited third person limited to a single limited character and that character’s awareness.

In this poem, “He Had Such Quiet Eyes” is written in the second person point of view, as shown by the use of ‘she’

Lesson 6

C) Language and style

A poem is an artful weave of words. So, now stand back from the poem and ask yourselves – How does this poem’s style complement and help develop the speaker’s situation, theme and tone? Do drop a line and share your thoughts with us.

In He Had Such Quiet Eyes the  language is Simple and Easy to understand.

It gives a clear picture of the bitter experience and regret of the young girl who was betrayed in love. This is followed suit with advise to all young girls to be careful when starting relationships.



 Styles of Poetry: Click on this  link  below and you will find a list of each  type, style or kinds’  of  poetry there is, and a detailed explanation of each .


Lesson 7

D) Mood and Atmosphere

Mood is defined as a created atmosphere or context. In the movies mood is achieved by special lighting, sound effects, selected music, and the tone of the actors’ dialogue and actions. In poetry, to create mood, the writer must rely on his/her use of words and phrases to “paint the right scene” – in other words, create the right mood. The mood may be somber, light-hearted, “other worldly,” comical, silly, or thought provoking. It is up to you, as the poet, to consider your theme and purpose. Then create the mood that best relays those two elements to your reader.

The mood and atmosphere of the poem, “He Had Such Quiet Eyes”, is both sad and happy. It is reflective as the persona reflects with a sombre mood describing the betrayal of a man who toyed with a girl’s emotions. It ends with a happy note of self realization. The poet then advises young women about establishing stable relationships with members of the opposite sex.

Click here for more readings on Mood and Atmosphere

Lesson 8

E) Tone  

A poem is also a speech. Pretend to be the persona/speaker and speak out the lines dramatically as if they were a speech in a play. Ask yourselves these questions – Who am I? and Why am I speaking out? What am I talking about? How am I thinking and feeling about that? In responding to these questions, use detailed evidence from the poem to support your ideas. And share them of course!……..

Tone ordinarily refers to all the ways in which a voice may enrich or modify the meanings of spoken words.  We are all familiar with the great variety of tones possible in speech.  We may be put off by a note of condescension, or whining, or aggressiveness.  We can be comforted by tones that are sympathetic or soothing.  We find ourselves persuaded not only by cogent reasons, but by the sounds of patient reasoning.  We often sense that a person is saying something quite different from what his words convey: his words may be calm, but his voice agitated; or his words may be pleasant, while his entire manner speaks of impatience or dislike.  Words of praise are easily turned into words of scorn by a touch of irony in the voice.

The voices of poetry, however, must contrive to produce in print all those effects that a speaker, face-to-face with his audience, creates by tone, gesture, and stance.  TONE in poetry comprises the attitudes of the poet toward his subject and toward his audience, as they can be inferred from the poem.  These attitudes need not always be separately distinguishable in a poem, but the sensitive reader is ready to respond to them as they present themselves.  What clues will the reader have to these attitudes?  Tone shows itself most often in diction, but also appears in images, cadences, rhythms, or any other events in the poem.

 In the poem “He Had Such Quiet Eyes”,  the poet is understanding and sympathetic towards the girl’s situation. She was naïve enough to believe the man who had every intention of cheating her love. She was gullible and had mistaken his lies to be declaration of love. The persona regretted that she had not listened to the advice about pleasure seeking men and not giving up on her principles. The poet advices all young girls not to end up in the same fate as the persona and this enhances the tone of sympathy and understanding.

   Click here for definations and examples on Tone

Lesson 9

F) Poetic Devices

A poem is a musical work of art too!! Ask yourselves – How does each feature of form complement and help develop speaker’s situation, theme, tone and style?…… We are waiting for your replies …….

 Poetry has emotion, imagery, significance, beauty, dignity, rhytm, sometimes ryhme, a different arrangements which can include inversion and concreteness in its images. One way to attain the qualities so essential to making words poetic is through the use of poetry device. The examples below are from the poem, ‘He Had Such Quiet Eyes’. Hopefully, with the examples given, everyone can better understand some of the ways to write poems well. 


Pools of lies- creates the image of a man who was full of deceit.

Layered with thinnest ice- indicate that the man was walking on a tightrope with his deception, as the ‘ice’      might just crack anytime and he would be found out.

Breathing desolate sighs -creates a picture of a couple in very close physical contact, whispering sweet nothings to one another.

Imploring her to be nice- gives us an image of the man begging the girl to love him

Paradise – creates the image of bliss and happiness.


The repetition of a beginning sound or consonant

They were two pools of lies layered with thinnest ice


Diction- The poet’s choice of words  

Pools of lies – the store of lies and deceit

Thinnest ice – being at the edge of danger

Imploring – the effect of begging or asking

Render – has the dramatic effect of ‘giving’

Paradise – synonymous to happiness, in this context, it is an euphemism for physical intimacy


Words that imitate a sound

Sighs – long deep audible breath of the man


A figure of speech which endows inanimate objects with human traits or abilities.

Quiet eyes were breathing desolate sighs – shows that the man seemed sad and lonely

Imploring her to be nice – shows as though the man was in desperate need of companionship


Refers to a group of words with a special meaning.

hows and whys refers to confusion, unable to reason out the cause for a situation

losing at dice means taking a chance at something and losing out

lose your heart means to fall in love


A comparison between two objects with the intent of giving clearer meaning to one of them.

Pools of liesThe man’s eyes are describes as ‘pools of lies’, to show the severity of his deceits.

Layered with thinnest ice– Eyes usually mirrors one’s feelings and innermost thoughts. Thus, the man disguises his actual intentions by’ layering his eyes with the thinnest ice’. This metaphor describes deception. 


Refers to the repetition of words, phrases, lines or stanzas.

nice really means nice’– repetition of ‘nice’

‘losing at dice’ and ‘lose your heart’– repetition of ‘ lose’


Something which represents something else besides itself.

‘quiet eyes’ – represents deception to the persona

‘dice’ – represents taking a risk with one’s feelings

‘heart’ – represents love

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