‘Mirror, Mirror’ by Spike Milligan is a nine-line poem that is contained within one block of text. The lines do not conform to a specific rhyme scheme, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t moments of rhyme within the text, as well as other poetic techniques that help to create rhythm.
It is unusual, within poems written with a younger audience in mind, for the poet not to choose a fairly straightforward pattern of rhyme. Rhyme schemes are utilized with the intention of making the text fun to read and pleasing to hear read out loud. But, Milligan made a different choice in this piece. The few rhymes that do exist in this piece are half, or slant. These are seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line or multiple lines of verse.
For example, in the first three lines, there are a number of words that are connected because of their consonant sounds. Such as, “tender,” “girl” and “hair”. All of these contain a hard “r” sound, but they don’t rhyme. There is another example in these lines with the words “young” and “ugly”. These two are connected by both the “g” consonant and the “u” sound that precedes it.
The poem begins with a young girl combing her hair. She is quite happy with herself, but then the mirror tells her she’s ugly. This surprising twist does not seem to impact the girl. She knows something that it doesn’t. The girl replies that she knows this can’t be true as only “that morning” the “blind boy” told her that she was beautiful.
You read the full poem here.
Alliteration is another technique used in the poem. It occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. For example, “blind boy” in line eight.
Another important technique that is commonly used within poetry is enjambment. This occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. It 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. A clear, dramatic example of this is line four in which “But” is the only word.
Analysis of Mirror, Mirror
A young spring-tender girl
‘You are very ugly’ said the mirror.
In the first lines of this piece, the speaker begins by describing a young girl, who is said to be “spring-tender”. She is new to the world and just beginning to grow into a woman. The speaker personifies her hair, by describing it as “joyous”. These two lines are happy and speak to the girl’s overall personality and the way she approaches life.
There is a shocking contrast to this tone in line three as the mirror speaks. It tells the girl that she is “very ugly”. While the mirror is described as doing speaking, it is clear that it is society talking to the girl, trying to convince her that she isn’t good enough.
‘You are beautiful’?
The words of the mirror, or the larger world, do not appear to have surprised or bothered the girl in the next lines. She smiles, as though she has a secret. Her smile is lovely, and peaceful as a dove. She knows something that the mirror doesn’t.
The girl replies that she knows this can’t be true as only “that morning” the “blind boy” told her that she was beautiful. She hears the words of the mirror for what they are, lies meant to poison her mind against her own body. The girl has enough strength to fight back against them. She knows that the blind boy could see her more clearly than the mirror ever will.