Displaced Person Looks at a Cage-bird
4 stanzas, 16 lines, no set syllables.
Iambs; however not iambic pentameter or heptameter etc.
Rhyming pattern: abcd efgf hhii hbib
Enjambment on lines 1,2 and 7.
Lines 1&7, 2&8 and 9&13 are almost but not exactly repetitions.
The rhythm could be linked to the alternating beat of a drum; this beat
adds to the anger and tension created in the piece.
D.J.Enright was born on the 11th of March 1920 into a working class
family. At Downing College, in Cambridge, where he studied, he was
‘literature can and should enlarge our moral universe’
His jobs have included teaching in Singapore and editing the magazine
Chatto for 8 years. He was one of the candidates to become the poet
laureate in 1984. Other poems which he has written include tales
about bar-girls and beggars and his pity for them. He died from
cancer on the 31st December 2002.
• The main character walks through the town centre each day, on his way he
passes a canary in a pet-shop window.
• From time to time the canary sings; canaries are capable of making a wide range
• (How long?), could mean that the displaced person is unsure of where he will be
as he does not know where his chaotic life will lead him.
• The person is insecure, this is shown by him believing a tiny canary is picking a
fight with him. Red canaries are especially good natured therefore the animal
chosen is ironic. ‘Florid’ means the canary has a red complexion.
• The character wishes that it were dead, this may be an extended metaphor of all
the things they hate about their life or maybe how the trade unions who fought
for the miners led to poverty as the miners were unable to work.
• The list in the third stanza shows how the bird and the person are the complete
opposites of each other. The displaced person is pasty, stressed, thin, scruffy,
poor and has to pay rent.
• The poet mocks the main character, saying all that would come out of the death
of that bird would be that he could write better poems. D.J.Enright mocks him
with contempt. He does pity him for his suffering- ‘just like me’ is not the poet
speaking about him self but pretending to be the main character like he is
imitating him like a bird.
• Central themes;
– Jealousy, the main character
envies the canary’s lifestyle.
– Insecurity, the main character
feels threatened by a harmless
– Death, the main character
believes this is the answer to
all of their problems.
– Time, the repetitive lifestyle of
the displaced person makes
him feel like he will be tortured
• The displaced person, the canary,
an the poet are all speaking. The
canary may not be real. The
characters talk to the reader.
• Personification; L10-11, the canary is given characteristics such as
being pensioned and rent-free. There is also a large amount of
• There are many examples of irony and allusion.
• Stanza 3 makes comparisons.
• The canary may be symbolizing the stresses of the displaced person’s
life, as the closing of the mines (where canaries were originally
used) may have been the original cause of the displacement.
• The main images that are used are in L4, L6, L10, L11, L12, L15.
• One of the most interesting images is ‘Earth has not anything to
show less fair’, this relates to the theme of power through torture, a
technique used by authority. The word fair has contrasting
meanings- conflict (justice) and peace (elegance): irony.
• There are many uses of sibilance, a technique which includes sounds
such as “S”, “SH”, “X”, “CH” and “Z”. The second stanza has many
examples including: closing, chest, flexing, single, stay, pass, this
• The poem is written in the present, gerund (-ing) and conditional
• There are several examples of assonance including ‘Looming and
• The canary’s voice is Onomatopoeia.
• Mainly in 1st person.
Effect on the reader
• The poet feels pity for both of them, on the other hand the reader
feels surprised that the poet does this despite the two of them being
so different. The poem’s purpose is to show the contrast between the
two characters. The emotion being used is envy. The reader is being
pleaded at and persuaded. The message is that most of the problems
that we see and fear are not real and are created by our own
How does the poem link to the
theme of power & control
The use of extended metaphor for what the cage-bird represents shows
how power and control is different between different groups of
people; the cage-bird represents the rich who have calm and
pleasant yet powerful and bounded lives whereas those who work at
the bottom have stressful and uncontrollable lives yet they work just
as hard as the rich they do not have any authority. The messages
about power and control are portrayed as fables with animals,
similar to hawk roosting.
How does the poem link to the
The poem links to the Tempest through the use of structure such as
the use of Iambs; however they are used in contrasting ways,
Shakespeare uses them to show the hierarchy and to show the love
between Ferdinand and Miranda. D.J.Enright uses iambs to create a
atmosphere of anger and tension. The poems also use extended
metaphors to link with the society at the time. Caliban represents
the indigenous people of the Americas, whilst the Displaced Person
represents those that have suffered through poverty and hard
economic times. Both associate death with power such as when the
canary is gone the displaced person believes that all their problems
will be solved and if Sebastian were to kill Alonso he would become
king. They both contain very powerful images.