A Polished Performance by Dennis Joseph Enright: Literary Appreciation

This poem should be read from the point of view of the 'citizen of polished capital' who having experienced the emptiness of the excitement and pleasure of the affluent city, begins to long for something simpler.

Dennis Joseph Enright

It opens with a reference to the 'citizens of the polished capital,' which suggests the inhabitants of the large, sophisticated, modernized, commercialized city, who 'sigh' or long for, or, wish themselves to be back in some of the 'towns up-country,' more modest places, where life is less difficult, freer from the complications and frustrations of the town. The citizens are making a journey to the countryside for the people's innocent simplicity. The “unpolished innocence/Of the distant villages" are most usually praised.

As we read through the first three stanzas, we see that there is a gradual transition from the general people to the particular girl who is 'simple, unspoilt' country girl. There is a change in the use of tense, in succeeding lines after the third stanza. Earlier there is present tense, but suddenly there is past tense-

 Deep in the bush we found her

Her "large and innocent eye" was noticed "among gentle gibbons and mountain - ferns" It was a beautiful, paradise-like background. They found her "perfect for the part, perfect," we are ourselves amused and satisfied to hear the praise with repetition and emotive- emphasis "perfect," but again we are puzzled and grieved to hear next the sinister words: Except” and the disease, “dropsy.” Dropsy is a tropical disease. It is the abnormal swelling of the limbs and the body. It is one of the chief symptoms of beriberi, the deficiency disease which in fact comes from eating "polished rice." Ironically, there is a remark made on "polished" and "unpolished" rice. "Unpolished" rice is supplied from the country to the town, and from town "polished" rice is supplied to the country. Therefore, ironic meaning is that the town people transfer the disease to the country people. This meaning is implied from the lines— "Except, for the dropsy/which comes from polished rice." Indirectly, the speaker means that the "polished rice" comes from the "polished capital," and "unpolished innocence/of the distant villages" suffer.

The sixth stanza gives quite a different perspective. Until now we have read that the poet refers to the citizens of-the towns up-country by "we", but in this stanza, the pronoun includes the filmmaker's, too. We realize that the "unpolished" girl they were searching for was needed to play a "part", a certain role, in their film, and her role has been admired by the citizens in spite of the dropsy. The girl as a character, unspoilt, unpolished, large and innocent of eye, and her country background, with "its gentle gibbons and mountain ferns, have been admiring subjects of the film, which has gained much popularity among the citizens of the polished capital.

This poem is simply a collection of statements that intend to contrast between the different ways and standards of city life and rural life. The pleasure of life is searched far from the "din of towns and cities" in the closest contact with the world of Nature.

So far the technique of the poem concerns, there is no use of rhyme, nor regular metrical pattern. It contains no startling metaphor or simile. Its epithets are sparse. Its rhythm is unspectacular. There are a few touches of alliteration, but with only a very slight effect.

Literary Spotlight

Summary of A Polished Performance

Critical Appreciation of A Polished Performance

Biography of Dennis Joseph Enright