Stevie Smith’s ‘Pad, Pad’ has an implicit title. It refers to the slow and steady movement that makes a soft sound. But, why does the poet hint at the mild sound originating from a person’s careful steps? To know the reason, readers have to go through the text attentively. The journey should be started with the mental state of the speaker. Then one has to understand why he is treading with such carefulness. There must be a reason. It is not difficult to understand either. As a lover mistakes love for infatuation, he becomes more careful in the future.
In the first stanza of this poem, readers come across an image of a lady dressed in a kimono and flowers. She is sitting in a crouch like a tiger waiting for its prey. Unfortunately, the prey is none other than the speaker himself. The lady told him that she had no feelings left in her heart. It was better to leave.
The years fled by. In the present, when he thinks of his past, he does not feel like before. One’s youthful years spurs passionate emotions in the heart. But when the person matures, he takes decisions carefully.
You can read the full poem here.
Smith’s poem consists of two stanzas. The first stanza, depicting the lady who had broken the speaker’s heat, contains five lines. The next stanza, defining the resolution of a mature speaker, is four lines long.
In the first stanza, the rhyme scheme is ABCCB. It means the last four lines of this section are in a closed rhyming pattern. Whereas the second stanza contains two rhyming couplets, ending with a similar hard “d” sound.
Another important thing to mention regarding the structure of this piece is that the first stanza contains short lines. While the second one has four long lines.
This piece is mostly composed of the trochaic meter. It does not have any specific metrical pattern as the lines don’t have a similar syllable count.
To begin with, the title, ‘Pad, Pad’ contains onomatopoeia. In the first two lines, Smith uses a repetition of the word “beautiful”. It creates an ironic effect in the first lines. She uses imagery to depict the scene the speaker talks about in the text.
The second stanza begins similarly to the first lines of the previous section. But, here readers can find a repetition of the word “unkind”. They can find the use of enjambment in the last two lines of this stanza.
Analysis, Stanza by Stanza
I always remember your beautiful flowers
And told me you loved me no more.
‘Pad, Pad’ begins with a speaker talking about his former love. The overall piece is told from the perspective of a first-person speaker. Therefore it is an example of a lyric. It seems here the poetic persona represents the poet herself or the voice of a speaker who is dejected in love.
Whatsoever, according to him, an image of his former love is stuck in his mind. Whenever he feels lonely or sad, he thinks about his beloved dressed in beautiful flowers and robbed in a traditional kimono. From this description, readers have started to think the poet might be talking about a Japanese woman. She is not only dressed beautifully but she also has nice looks.
The speaker specifically remembers that day when they were separated. His beloved was sitting cozily on the crouch. Her posture seemed to him as if she was like a tiger, crouching and waiting for prey. As the speaker was rejected, he was the prey on that day. While sitting there, the lady broke his heart and told him that she didn’t love him anymore. It was just an infatuation. Therefore the youthful passion had vanished.
What I cannot remember is how I felt when you were unkind
The years have taken from me. Softly I go now, pad pad.
That incident is still fresh in his memory. But one thing he cannot remember nowadays is how he felt on that day. When she rejected him unkindly, his heart blew up his mind. But now the speaker is matured enough. He can control his emotions. That’s why he should not mind if the lady is unkind now.
When he was in his youth, even the slightest of provocations could incite exaggerated emotions in his heart. On that day when they broke up, he felt extremely angry at the same time sad. Gradually those emotions were superseded by maturity. The years after that event changed him as a person and hardened his mind.
For this reason, now he faces reality with open eyes and takes each step with extreme care. After getting the reward from the lady, he changed his attitude towards love. Nowadays if he ever strolls in the alleys of love, he passes by with light steps. The soft sound of “pad pad” can only be heard.
Stevie Smith’s poetry was often dark. Her characters were always in the mood of saying “goodbye” to their close ones. Her speakers, like one present in her poem, ‘Pad, Pad’ are never sentimental. They are rather ruthlessly honest. The subject matter of Smith’s poems in the later phase reflects suffering and end of life. Likewise, in this poem, readers can find the suffering of a speaker who has been dejected in love. It is not clear why the event occurred in his life. But after reading the text, it becomes clear that his beloved was not true to him. She was infatuated rather than falling in love.
Here is a list of a few poems that are similar to the themes present in Stevie Smith’s poem ‘Pad, Pad’.
- Love Letter (Clouds) by Sarah Manguso – This poem explores the end of relationships and how it can often seem like the wastage of one’s time. Read more poems from Sarah Manguso.
- Because I Liked You Better by A. E. Housman – In this piece, the speaker describes how a speaker chose death to keep the promise he made to his beloved who does not love him at all. Explore more A.E. Housman poetry.
- When We Two Parted by Lord Byron – It’s one of Byron’s best poems and it describes different aspects of a relationship. Read more poems of Lord Byron.
- I Said To Love by Thomas Hardy – This poem is about love and the difficulties that love creates on people. It’s one of Hardy’s best poetry. Explore more Thomas Hardy poetry.