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Aysenur Gokalp

on 13 September 2016

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Tiger in the menagerie
Contextual Information
Emma Jones was born in 1979 and she is an Australian poet. She is one of a number of poets on the Next Generation list who have benefited from rights-of-poetic-passage residences at the Wordsworth Trust. It would be too simple to say that her poems replay the new world / old world tensions and her work is thoughtfully concerned with encounters and exchanges between systems.
The natural habitants and appearance of the tiger who is kept in a menagerie are the general theme of the poem. There are a lof of different comments about the poem which include vigorous and robust imageries and metaphors.
EXAMPLE: “the bars were the lashes of the stripes
the stripes were the lashes of the bars”- It is a metaphor which means that when it is night, the tiger and the night merge.
“ It was too flash, too blue,
too much like the painting of a tiger.”-Imagery

Key Terms
Menagerie: A collection of live wild animals on exhibition; the enclosure where they are kept.
Colonnade: A series of columns at regular intervals.
Fretwork: Ornamental woodwork either carved in low relief or cut through with a fretsaw.
Aviary: A house, enclosure, large cage, or other place for keeping birds confined; a bird house

Emma Jones
No one could say how the tiger got into the menagerie.
It was too flash, too blue,
too much like the painting of a tiger.

At night the bars of the cage and the stripes of the tiger
looked into each other so long
that when it was time for those eyes to rock shut

the bars were the lashes of the stripes
the stripes were the lashes of the bars

and they walked together in their dreams so long
through the long colonnade
that shed its fretwork to the Indian main
that when the sun rose they'd gone and the tiger was
one clear orange eye that walked into the menagerie.

No one could say how the tiger got out in the menagerie.
It was too bright, too bare.
If the menagerie could, it would say 'tiger'.

If the aviary could, it would lock its door.
Its heart began to beat in rows of rising birds
when the tiger came inside to wait.
There is no fixed pattern in the poem.
There are stanzas consisting of two or three lines.
There is no regular rhyme scheme.

As the setting of the poem, the menagerie could be understood as a cage where the animals are kept for show but it could also be a forest where it is hard to exit, created by the use of metaphor: ”bars” just like a prison.
The tiger comes out and its stripes merge with the bars of the menagerie at night. There is no one who knows how and when the tiger had got into the menagerie. When the sun rises, the other animals which are described as “they” by the poet had disappeared. There could be a metaphor to make a connection between the ambition and the wild qualities of the tiger and the night which covers all savagery and dark business in order to represent the underlying message of the poem. As the sun rises the tiger disappears and only the orange blazing eye of the tiger remains so the fear ends.
Additionally as can be seen in the lines:

“that when the sun rose they'd gone and the tiger was
one clear orange eye that walked into the menagerie.”

The things which were gone could be the darkness and violence rather than the animals which are eaten by the tiger.

Metaphor of The Tiger
Tiger is a metaphor for the suppressed violence of humans. The violence comes at nights which ends up with the deaths of other animals. The other animals are afraid of the tiger.
Tiger might also represent the dangerous, strange and changeable love. Love is unpredictable like the behaviors of the tiger at night. Even if you want to lock it to a cage, it would find a way to escape its bars and hunts you like a tiger hunts its prey. In the poem, lines:
“and they walked together in their dreams so long”
Prove that the tiger follows animals even if they are sleeping just like love which comes to our dreams.
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