‘The Pen is Mightier than The Sword’ by Mariska Taylor-Darko is a poem in memory of Ghanaian Poet; Kofi Awoonor. The poem honors the work of Kofi Awoonor and emphasizes the superiority of making a positive difference through writing, as opposed to solving conflict through war and bloodshed. Despite the poem being directed towards one person, there are many general lessons that can be taken out of Taylor’s writing. Taylor-Darko used varying poetic devices to bring his argument to life. Taylor uses Personification, Onomatopoeia, and imagery to emphasize how the pen truly is mightier than the sword. ‘The Pen is Mightier than The Sword’ consists of six stanzas and the phrase ‘The Pen is mightier than the Sword’, is a Metonymic adage. A metonymic adage is when a word is used in place of another word or phrase. The pen is used to describe written work and intellectual reasoning, whereas the sword is in place of war and bloodshed.
The Pen is Mightier than The Sword Analysis
We all know that the pen is mightier than the sword,
The pen is mightier than the sword!
In the first stanza of the poem, which you can read in full here, Taylor openly states her main argument, which is that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’. Taylor uses personification to bring life to the sword. She states that; the sword thought it was mightier than the pen.’ stating that the sword ‘thought’ gives it human characteristics and therefore shows that the sword is not a literal sword, but stands as a symbol for something else. This is to be expected as we discussed earlier that the statement that the pen is better than the sword is a metonymic adage. Taylor states in the first stanza that ‘they lie bad’, after personifying the sword. This shows us that the sword most likely represents all people on earth who believe that conflict and peace can only be resolved through pain and bloodshed. The fact that Taylor uses Enjambment between the line which personifies the sword and the line which states ‘they lie bad’ gives us further evidence that the sword is a symbol of a group of people who earnestly believe that resolving conflict peacefully will never work and that the only way to solve conflict is through bloodshed.
Long after the ra ta tat tat of the guns have echoed away,
The pen is mightier than the sword!
In the second stanza Taylor justifies her argument by stating that long after the sounds of war have faded into nothing but a memory, a word that has been written will still remain. Taylor uses onomatopoeia to explain the sound effect of the guns. Using onomatopoeia here was a very clever way of Taylor proving her point to those who are currently reading the poem. Saying the rat-a-tat-tat out loud gives the reader a first-hand demonstration of her example. When you say the words out loud they fade away and are gone the instant that you complete your sentence. Whereas the words that you continue to read onward, or even the written word rat-a-tat-tat continues to remain after the sound of gunfire has faded. Taylor refers to writing equipment as ‘mighty oak’ most probably because pencils are essentially made from wood. Stating that the everlasting words of the mighty oak will remain, is also another way of Taylor describing the power and strength behind words. Since explanation through words as opposed to resolving through fighting is a very passive way of resolving conflict it may seem ineffective, but Taylor is reminding us here that words have power and they can be enough to make peace.
Long after we’ve forgotten the names of those who wielded the axe,
Long after their names disappear from memory,
His death will open a gateway for others to do what they love
What they feel and what they desire – to be storytellers.
The third stanza introduces the main subject of the poem, Professor Kofi Awoonor. The poem has been written in his memory and now Taylor becomes very specific as she states that long after all the warriors who fought in battle die, the words of her professor will continue to live on. Taylor uses imagery here to describe how the ink from Awoonor’s pen will be etched in everyone’s minds. The imagery allows us to grasp the meaning of what Taylor means by the pen is mightier than the sword. Words have a way of ingraining themselves into our brains, and since our brain controls our actions then what could be more powerful than their effect? Taylor makes another interesting point in this stanza as she reminds us that reading the writing of a person who has passed away inspires us to become so much more than what we currently are, whereas hearing about war simply depresses us.
Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Stanza
The lie the idiots tried to feed us no go hold
The randomness of their sword chose a wrong victim
Because as long as we live, as long as we breathe, as long as we read,
Our storyteller will live on.
They lie bad!
Long live the pen of Kofi Awoonor.
The last few stanzas may be directly discussing the way Awoonor’s death took place, and Taylor may be condemning the people who killed him. Awoonor was shot and killed during the Storymoja Hay Festival in Kenya. Awoonor had gone to Kenya to celebrate storytelling and the art of writing, only to be shot randomly and killed. Taylor states that ‘their ax chose a wrong victim’, most likely referring to the people who had killed Awoonor. Taylor uses very expressive terminology and punctuation to express that Awonnors death may have made it outwardly seem like the sword was more powerful than words, as Awoonor had been advocating writing and peace, but was killed through violence. In reality, however, Awoonor was the one who won, as his writing is still read and celebrated today, whereas the people who killed him are nowhere to be heard or seen. The entire poem has been dedicated to Kofi Awonoor and Taylor directly mentions the writer multiple times in the poem, but the larger message of the poem is clear and strong. It seems that Taylor used the death of Awoonor as a means of proving that intellectual debate and conversation will always surpass violence and bloodshed in every way possible.
‘The Pen is Mightier than The Sword’ by Mariska Taylor Darko is a beautifully striking poem about the eternal nature of words. It almost seems as if Taylor is not only mourning the death of her beloved teacher but at the same time celebrating it. Taylor uses Personification, Onomatopoeia, and imagery to emphasize that the pen is mightier than the sword. Taylor makes it clear to us that the written word will inspire forever, whereas war and bloodshed, or those who hold power through violence will fade into the past and death will literally be their end. Those that write in order to spread their message are the successful ones because their words will be read forever.
About Mariska Taylor-Darko
Mariska Taylor-Darko is a director of Ghana Organization for Learning and development (GOLD) which is a charity directed towards helping women and children in Ghana. She is a widow and is currently raising two sons. Taylor is also the founder of a youth empowerment program entitled Yes Group Ghana. Mariska has been featured on multiple platforms, such as online magazines, printed magazines, and radio shows. Taylor is also the author of a book ‘the secret to detoxifying your life and love’. Taylor is also the author of a book of poetry and is currently working on a film and a series of children’s books.