Michael Shepherd

(8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

0017 The ironic, the sarcastic, the sardonic...


These weapons of literary abuse
so prevalent in the 17th and 18th century days
of literary gents in coffee-houses
have fallen into desuetude
these amicable days

but for the sake of Eng. Lit. studies
it might be useful
to run them through:

they have Greek roots
which we should know; it keeps them tidy
in the first-aid box of the literary mind:

there’s irony: that’s from the Greek
meaning ‘simulated innocence’;
in practice, saying the opposite
of what you mean; the Greeks
used it in tragedy – the man who says all’s fine and dandy
as the black cloud of disaster gathers;
we use it more for humour; as in
‘ you’re a right barrel of laughs, Mona..’

then there’s sarcasm: in Greek, wow,
to tear the flesh; gnash the teeth,
or simply to speak bitterly;
using irony (as above) , to express contempt:
‘that meant to be funny, then…? ’

and the sardonic: Homer used it
to describe bitter, mocking laughter,
which for undisclosed reasons
was associated with the people of Sardinia..

Imagine, perhaps, a tinful
of no-head-to-no-tail sardines
able to read their label..

Submitted: Monday, November 27, 2006
Edited: Saturday, November 27, 2010
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