This amusing poem is one of Spike Milligan’s most inspired. Through nine short lines, he takes the reader into a world where every eatable food is elevated and adequately appreciated. The poet makes use of several hyperbolic statements, in order to create a scenario in which the most basic of those foods, porridge, ends up on a plinth.
Summary of Porridge
In the first lines of ‘Porridge’, the speaker begins by asking why porridge, such an important food to the British people, does not have a monument. This is asked by the speaker without sarcasm but was written by Milligan with the intention of provoking laughter or general amusement. Through the next lines, the speaker tries to outline why porridge deserves a monument and then envisions what that monument would look like after completion. He thinks it should be on a plinth in London, but that the “Porridge” should be made in Scotland.
You can read the full poem here.
Poetic Techniques in Porridge
‘Porridge’ by Spike Milligan is a short two stanza poem that’s divided into one set of four lines and another set of five. The lines follow a consistent rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCDD. Despite the simplicity of the rhyme scheme and of the language, Milligan makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Porridge’. These include alliteration, enjambment, repetition and hyperbole.
The first, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. For example, “statue” and “see” in the second line of the second stanza and “enough” and “eat” in the third line of the first stanza. The most prominent example is “Oatmeal, O.B.E.” in the fourth line of the second stanza.
Milligan also makes use of repetition or the use and reuse of a specific technique, word, tone or phrase within a poem. In this case, Milligan used the phrase “it’s good enough to…” in lines three and four of the first stanza. This was done in order to create a rhythmic-feeling list of porridge’s best features.
Enjambment and Hyperbole
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. The best example is the transition between the first and second lines of the first stanza. It is here a reader finds out that the poem is really going to be about “Porridge,” and it’s certainly going to be humorous.
Lastly, hyperbole is an intentionally exaggerated description, comparison, or exclamation meant to further the writer’s important themes or make a specific impact on a reader. This technique can be seen throughout the text but most prominently at the end of the poem.
Analysis of Porridge
In the first stanza of ‘Porridge,’ the speaker begins by asking an amusing question. He wants to know why there isn’t a “monument / To Porridge in” his land. This question is not posed to a single person but to any who might feel the same and live in Great Britain. A reader will immediately notice the the “P” in “Porridge” is capitalized. This was done in order to make its importance all the more evident.
The next two lines explain simply that the dish is worthy of any monument one might erect to it. Its best features include being “good enough to eat” and “good enough to stand!” What’s interesting about this moment is that the speaker does not overly praise the dish. He is aware of its simplicity and is embracing it. But, by his calculation, any food that’s good enough to eat should have a monument.
There is obvious humour in these lines. The poem was meant for a young audience, a fact that becomes quite important. All children reading or being read this text will likely have eaten porridge and each will have their own opinion of whether or not it deserves a monument.
The next four lines state that the statue should be up on a plinth, raised above the ground as only the most important statues are. It should also be in London. He then specifies the porridge needs to be “made in Scotland”. This feature of his depiction is interesting to consider but isn’t explained in the last two lines.
Presumably, in line four the name “Oatmeal” is being used interchangeably with “Porridge” in order to create the alliterative moment between “Oatmeal and “O.B.E.” He finishes the poem by declaring that oatmeal should be O.B.E. or Order of the British Empire. This high honour is generally bestowed upon those who have done some service for the British public. Clearly, this is how the speaker sees “Porridge”. This is also a classic example of hyperbole, or an exaggerated statement not meant to be taken at face value.
The last line leaves a little to be desired in terms of clarity. That being said one can assume that a “dog of three” was responsible for penning the poem. Alternatively, it was responsible for the creation of the statue. This is meant to add to the humour of the text.