Not My Best Side by U.A. Fanthorpe (pg 25). Not My Best Side. This poem is based on Uccello’s painting St George and the Dragon. The poem’s three stanzas are monologues from each of the three characters depicted in the painting – the dragon, the maiden and the knight respectively.
Not My Best Side
by U.A. Fanthorpe (pg 25)
This poem is based on Uccello’s painting St George and the Dragon.
The poem’s three stanzas are monologues from each of the three characters depicted in the painting – the dragon, the maiden and the knight respectively.
It subverts (breaks) the stereotypes associated with the characters so that the traditionally evil, fearsome dragon is a vain, thoughtful loser; the maiden is feisty and crude and the knight is arrogant and shallow.
Note how the poem is divided into three stanzas like chapters – each is narrated as a dramatic monologue by the characters in the painting
Not my best side, I'm afraid.The artist didn't give me a chance toPose properly, and as you can see,Poor chap, he had this obsession withTriangles, so he left off two of myFeet.
As if posing for the painting
Demonstrates the dragon’s vanity (or maybe self-consciousness?)
triangles– look back at the painting!
We hear the chatty, friendly tone of the dragon
Opening establishes the comical tone of the poem
I didn't comment at the time(What, after all, are two feetTo a monster?) but afterwardsI was sorry for the bad publicity.
rhetorical question – used in brackets (parenthesis). It is like he is asking the reader for his/her opinion
Why, I said to myself, should my conquerorBe so ostentatiously beardless, and rideA horse with a deformed neck and square hoofs?
The dragon speaks very well, using quite sophisticated language – he is presented positively
ostentatiously – means deliberately trying to attract attention – the dragon thinks the knight is vain and arrogant. Ironic because the dragon is also very concerned with his own appearance
again, obsession with appearances – he doesn’t fancy the girl much…
Why should my victim be soUnattractive as to be inedible,And why should she have me literallyOn a string? I don't mind dyingRitually, since I always rise again,But I should have liked a little more bloodTo show they were taking me seriously.
like Christ, the dragon will be resurrected – he is an immortal figure unlike the knight and maiden. He says this very matter-of-factly: ‘I don’t mind dying’, as if he has been here many times before
creates a sense of performance; maintains humorous tone – the dragon thinks more blood in the painting would make him be considered more of a martyr like Christ
It's hard for a girl to be sure ifShe wants to be rescued. I mean, I quiteTook to the dragon. It's nice to beLiked, if you know what I mean. He was
So nicely physical, with his clawsAnd lovely green skin, and that sexy tail,
subverts stereotype – she preferred the dragon to the knight
sense of loneliness
she sees the dragon as an object of desire – she misunderstands his intentions
And the way he looked at me,He made me feel he was all ready toEat me. And any girl enjoys that.
misunderstanding – dual meaning. She is crude and ‘eat me’ implies oral sex to her
as if she is winking at the reader – sexual innuendo. This demonstrates she is not the stereotypically innocent, naïve virgin but a modern, honest woman
drive word ‘so’ – moves the narrative on – it is as if she was going off on a tangent
‘boy’ - negative? Would the knight see himself as a boy or a man?
So when this boy turned up, wearing machinery,On a really dangerous horse, to be honestI didn't much fancy him. I mean,What was he like underneath the hardware?
implies the horse is more dangerous than the knight
sexual innuendo again – she compares him unfavourably with the dragon – addresses the audience as all the characters do at some point. ‘Hardware’ refers to his armour
she is fussy; these are modern concerns
He might have acne, blackheads or evenBad breath for all I could tell, but the dragon--Well, you could see all his equipmentAt a glance. Still, what could I do?The dragon got himself beaten by the boy,And a girl's got to think of her future.
use your imagination!
despite her crude honesty she is still helpless and must fit in with the ‘story’
she ends up being pragmatic (sensible, thinks things through)
alliterationon ‘d’ – harsh, aggressive – like his arrogance
I have diplomas in DragonManagement and Virgin Reclamation.My horse is the latest model, withAutomatic transmission and built-inObsolescence. My spear is custom-built,
humorous – sees his role as a dragon slayer and a taker of virginity. Note the modern use of words like ‘management’ and ‘reclamation’
he is shallow – all he cares about is having the latest gadgets – modern way of thinking
‘automatic transmission’ – like a car
‘obsolescence’ – means that the horse is replaced when it becomes out of date (obsolete)
continues to be obsessive about his equipment
arrogance is misguided – we already know that the girl prefers the dragon
And my prototype armourStill on the secret list. You can'tDo better than me at the moment.I'm qualified and equipped to theEyebrow. So why be difficult?Don't you want to be killed and/or rescuedIn the most contemporary way? Don'tYou want to carry out the rolesThat sociology and myth have designed for you?
series of rhetorical questions shows his arrogance and delusions
‘don’t you want to…for you?’ – this pokes fun at the whole idea of the story. We have already seen in the poem that the ‘roles’ designed for the characters have been subverted
‘and/or’ – he speaks like a robot – lacks personality
Don't you realize that, by being choosy,You are endangering job prospectsIn the spear- and horse-building industries?What, in any case, does it matter whatYou want? You're in my way.
humorous – he sounds ridiculous
ends in a completely dismissive tone – ‘you’re in my way’.
This poem is all about the way people’s true identities are hidden and that we never truly know what people are like. In this way, the poem links with the ‘faces’ people wear in ‘Once Upon a Time’.
The subversion (breaking) of stereotypes links with ‘Warning’, where the narrator looks forward to breaking the tradition of a safe, cosy life in old age.
This is an enjoyable, clever poem which uses humour to make the point that people do not necessarily conform to stereotypes. If you wish to write about the poem in an exam you must be comfortable with the way humour is used: the irony of the girl admiring the dragon over the knight, the quite crude sexual innuendo, the use of rhetorical questions to address the audience. Other poems that use humour are ‘Warning’ and ‘I Shall Paint My Nails Red’. It is interesting to ask yourself which character you ‘side’ with the most. It is clearly not the traditional ‘hero’ figure of George.