Irony in Poetry - English Poetry Notes

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  • Irony in poetry occurs when there is a contradiction between what the reader expects and what happens in the poem.

Describe irony in the poem below.

They Ran Out of Mud by Miriam Were
There is a little hut
Built across from here
They’ve mudded two walls
And the rest stands unmade
For they ran out of mud

There is a deep gully
Running along the road
They have filled it halfway
And the rest is still gaping
For they ran out of mud

There is a pot y the alter
That they began to mould
They finished the base
But the neck remains undone
For they ran out of mud

Mud! Mud!
Who can find mud
Maybe if it were gold
Someone would


Mud is commonplace—it is ubiquitous and hence a lame excuse for not finishing to mud the walls, or fill the gully or complete moulding the alter. The persona suggests that if it was gold which is very expensive they could have found it but not mud. This shows that the workers are very lazy and give inexplicable excuses to hide their laziness. It is thus ironical that they have run out of mud but if it were gold they could have found it.

The Beard

In the pulpit he swayed and turned
Leant forward, backward,
To the right: to the left
His solemn voice echoed;
Lowly the congregation followed
“Do you love your neighbour?”
Meekly they bow at his keen eye.
Now examining a grey head
Heaving under her sobs
His heart leapt assured—
“Her sins weigh on her”
So with her he chat outside;
“Weep not child, you are pardoned.”
“But, Sir, your beard conjured up
The spirit of my dead goat!”


Describe irony in the poem above.

The lady cries and the preacher thinks that it is because her sins weigh on her so he talks to her and thinks that by her repentance she has been pardoned. But in reality the woman was weeping because she saw the preacher’s beard which conjured up memories of her dead goat.

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