‘Pride’ is a simple, straightforward take on the human ego. Using uncomplicated language and a slightly altered syntax, Duggan proposes a life with a significantly curtailed ego. The mood is mostly upbeat and analytical, but there are moments where it feels as though the speaker grows frustrated.
Summary of Pride
In the first lines, the poet lays out the dangers of being overly prideful and indulging too much in one’s own success. The speaker also expresses their frustration that there aren’t more humble people in the world. They feel as though everyone is much to self-evolved and self-concerned. In the last lines, they admit that some ego is necessary to surmount the challenges of everyday life.
You can read the full poem here.
Poetic Techniques in Pride
‘Pride’ by Francis Duggan is a single stanza, fourteen-line poem that rhymes in couplets, or sets of two lines. The pattern looks like: AABBCC, changing end sounds through all fourteen lines. Duggan makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Pride’ they include alliteration, repetition, enjambment and anaphora.
Repetition is the use and reuse of a specific technique, word, tone or phrase within a poem. In the case of ‘Pride’, it can be seen through the way the poet has chosen to repeat a variety of words within the lines. Such as “learning” and “learned” in line four. Plus, the word “pride” itself appears nine times in the fourteen lines. In some lines, it’s even seen twice. By doing so, Duggan is continually placing emphasis on the word and making sure the reader remembers this is what the poem is about.
Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. It can be seen throughout ‘Pride’ but a few examples include “life,” “learning,” and “learned” in line four and “seems sad…say” in line fourteen.
Duggan also makes use of anaphora, or the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. For instance, “And” in lines two and three, and “A” in lines twelve and thirteen.
Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For example, the transition between lines three and four which mimics a “fall” and that between lines twelve and thirteen.
Analysis of Pride
In the first lines of ‘Pride’, the speaker begins by stating fairly simply that “we,” a likely reference to the generalized human population, “hide” behind big egos. The syntax in this line is altered slightly for no apparent reason other than to make the line feel more poetic. The second line attempts to help the reader come to an understanding of pride and its unimportance. The speaker expresses their belief that there’s nothing to pride, only the “five letters” that make up the word.
The second line is connected to the third through the use of anaphora, both lines begin with “And”. In the third line, the speaker uses consonance in order to increase the rhyme of the words. It appears through the use of the double “l” in “will,” “tell,” and “fall”. This line also referencing an idiom that has its origins in The Book of Proverbs in the Bible. The original quote read “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” and is now interpreted to mean that prideful people will go to hell.
In lines four and five the speaker recalls how “we have been learning” about pride and its dances since “before we learned to crawl” but that it’s not easily “understood”.
The understanding the poets come to is that “A little pride is a necessary but too much pride not good”. The simplicity of this line as well as those which came before and will come after hints that this piece might have been written with a younger audience in mind. It reads as though it’s a moral lesson a child might have to memorize and recite.
Line seven warns the reader that if they don’t control their own pride that it will lead them to “snobbish self conceit”. The use of alliteration here emphasizes the rhyme and rhythm of the line. As the speaker has established by this point, it’s very hard to control one’s own ego therefore the eighth line is fairly self-explanatory.
The word “self” pops up again in the eighth line, twice. The last two lines appear to be musing on the wider world and the kinds of people “you” are likely to find there. Everyone is mostly “self opinionated” and “self conceited” and operating in deference to their own egos.
The last four lines reveal what it is about big egos that attract “us”. That is, success. The speaker admits that they’ve never met someone with a small ego and huge success. They make an allowance for a bit of pride and self-esteem to get through the day but “too much” is a danger and might lead to “arrogance”.