Monday, April 8, 2013

The Pigtail by William Makepeace Thackery

William Makepeace Thakeray









   Lets discuss about this poem.

                 The Pigtail


                                                   There lived a sage in days of yore,
And he a handsome pigtail wore;
But wondered much and sorrowed more,
Because it hung behind him.

He mused upon this curious case,
And swore he'd change the pigtail's place,
And have it hanging at his face,
Not dangling there behind him.

Says he, "The mystery I've found -
Says he, "The mystery I've found!
I'll turn me round," - he turned him round;
But still it hung behind him.

Then round and round, and out and in,
All day the puzzled sage did spin;
In vain - it mattered not a pin -
The pigtail hung behind him.

And right and left and round about,
And up and down and in and out
He turned; but still the pigtail stout
Hung steadily behind him.

And though his efforts never slack,
And though he twist and twirl, and tack,
Alas!  Still faithful to his back,
The pigtail hangs behind him.
                                          'The Pigtail' by William Makepeace Thackeray is an amusing(humorous )poem. Here the word 'sage' is used in an ironical sense to refer to a person who is dull witted.
Theme - How learned men lack practical common sense.
Special Features -
  • 3rd person narration
  • Usage of old English Language - e.g. Sage, muse, yore
  • Dramatically presented
  • Starts in past tense at the beginning but ends in simple present tense
  • The poem starts in a traditional way - 'There lived a sage in the days of yore' (the same used in traditional proses, stories etc. - Once upon a time...)
Techniques -
  • Short phrases
  • Repetition - 'The pigtail hung behind him' (the meaning of this phrase is repeatedly used in last line of each stanza)
  • Alliteration - 'twist, twirl and tack' (alliteration of 't')
  • Assonance - 'round and round and out' (assonance of 'o')
  • Visual imagery - Creates the image of sage's rotation
  • Hyperbole/exaggeration - Several words such as 'mystery', 'curious case', 'mused' are used to exaggerate the situation.
  • Irony
  • Rhyming pattern - last word of first three lines of each stanza.
  • Racy, quick moving rhythm
What makes this poem humorous?
  • Antics of sage
  • Usage of mock serious tone
  • Absurdity of sage's 'curious case' and his solution
  • The way the poet organizes his materials and arranges the sentence structures. e.g. -      
                          "There lived a sage in days of yore,
                           And he a handsome pigtail wore;
                           But wondered much and sorrowed more,
                           Because it hung behind him"
         1.  Here, at the 1st line we can imagine a great learned person because of the use of the word 'sage' but it is changed to a humour by the second line with the word 'pigtail'.
         2. The second line is written as 'And he a handsome pigtail wore' instead of  'he wore a handsome pigtail' to make the word 'yore' in first line rhyme with 'wore' in second line which sharply focuses the sage in a frivolous light.
         3. The quick transmission from the positive degree adjective 'much' to comparative degree adjective 'more' in the 3rd line makes the folly of sage and sharpens the teasing quality of the poem.
  • The words which are used for hyperbole
  • Repetition -
                   1) The repetition of the last line of each stanza add humour to poem because it always brings to focus how the pigtail mocks at the sage's efforts by stubbornly remaining behind him.
                                    
                                  2) "Then round and round, and out and in,
                                       All day the puzzled sage did spin;
                                       In vain - it mattered not a pin -
                                       The pigtail hung behind him"
                    Here, we can see that the 'in' is repeatedly used specially in end positions, to give the lines a  amusing rhythm suitable in the context of the sage being subject to ridicule (to show him as being engaged in a sort of a gyrating dance to have the pigtail shifted to his face.)
  • The ending of the poem indicating the readers that the sage didn't stop his rotation although it is useless. ("and though his efforts never slack")