Should I write the substance of a poem In past tense or in present tense?

Here are a few lines of the poem owl:

Downhill I came, hungry, and yet not starved;

Cold, yet had heat within me that was proof

Against the North wind; tired, yet so that rest

Had seemed the sweetest thing under a roof.

Here's the link Vintage Poetry: click

Here's the substance written by me: Should I use past tense or Present tense?

  • The poet comes/came down a hill. He is/was hungry, tired and feeling cold. But he is/was not really starving. He could/can still relish a shelter under a roof, and have/had sufficient warmth within him to resist the cold wind. He gets/got food, fire and rest in an inn. He is/was protected from the darkness and cold that prevailed outside the inn. But he cannot/could not avoid hearing the sad note of an owl coming distinctly from a hill. The cry of the owl seems/seemed to remind him of those soldiers and poor people who have/had not been able to get food and shelter. So, although he gets/got food and rest, he cannot/could not enjoy himself.

I think past and present both tenses can be used but present tense is better. What do you think?

One more question, should I use past tense or present in answer to the following question?

  • Question: Describe the feelings of the poet on hearing the cry of the owl.

  • Answer:- The owl's cry was/is sad and piercing. It makes/made the poet ponder over the plight of the homeless poor and the soldiers fighting at the front. They have/had to starve and spend the cold winter nights in the open, under the sky. The poet feels/felt sad for the misery of those people. The owl's cry picks/picked his conscience. He cannot/could not enjoy his food and rest?

The question is in my text book with the above answer that is written in past tense. But I think present tense can also be used. What do you think? Which tense would you prefer?

Can any teacher or anyone who knows the language well please answer this?

  • I'm having a little trouble distinguishing this question from your previous one, How to choose tenses in story telling? Please clarify how this question is different from your previous one. Please see Can I ask a question for the second time? – Em. Sep 11 '18 at 5:58
  • Hi, this question is a little different because in my text book the answer was written in past tense but I want to know if it is also correct to use Present tense there. – user254288 Sep 11 '18 at 6:37
  • Please edit your posts to make clarifications (don't use the comments for that). Try to make the distinction as clear as possible. Include a link to the previous question and explain why it's different. Please see Can I ask a question for the second time? – Em. Sep 11 '18 at 6:54

In general, when referring to past events, use the past tense.

The poet is speaking of things that previously happened to him. It would be incorrect to reference them as if they were presently occurring.

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