There lived a sage in days of yore,
And he a handsome pigtail wore;
But wondered much and sorrowed more,
Because it hung behind him.

He mused upon this curious case,
And swore he'd change the pigtail's place,
And have it hanging at his face,
Not dangling there behind him.
Says he, "The mystery I've found –
Says he, "The mystery I've found!
I'll turn me round," he turned him round;
But still it hung behind him.
The poet talks about an incident that happened long ago when he himself was not available to ponder over the events that were taking place. He narrates the incident in the form of a folklore. The event is about a sage who lived long ago, in the past. The poet says that the sage, in spite of having certain norms about living a simple life, wore a handsome pigtail. A pigtail is a person's hair tied up at the back of his head. Sages are generally supposed to not indulge in beautifying themselves and are required to live a minimal life. But the sage maintains an exceptionally long pigtail. The pigtail is a handsome one, such that it is neatly combed, plaited and tied up.
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A pigtail
The sage, unlike people who would be grateful to have a handsomely plaited hair, is worried about it instead. In fact he is sorrowful to possess it, the reason being that it hung behind him, and not in his face. This shows that wise men like sages can also be not content and satisfied with the blessings they have. When people look for perfection, the beauty is lost.
The sage takes this as a serious issue but considers the situation from all angles. He puts a lot of thought into the curious case. It is a curious case to him, as he does not seem to understand the reason why the pigtail is behind his head. He is keen to change the position and swears that he would have it hanging from his face and not from the back of his head. He thinks that achieving success in changing the position of the pigtail, would portray him as even more wise.
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The man thought of a way to change the position of the pigtail
After constant thinking and experimenting with his hair, he finally shouts in glee that he had solved the mystery. The lines are repeated in the poem to give an emphasis to his happiness to have solved the mystery, or rather he thinks that he has. The sage thinks that he could change the position of the pigtail, if he jumps around and turns the position of his body, from the way he is standing at the moment. He therefore turns his body. But the pigtail, being attached to the head of the sage, stays in the same position. When he turns back, his head also turns back and the pigtail's positions does not change to the front of his face.
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The sage turned around and tried jumping
Words with difficult meaning:
SageA mature and wise person
PigtailHair that is tied together at the back of one's head
YoreIn the past, ancient days
CuriousEager to learn or know
MuseTo think about something deeply
DanglingTo hang freely
MysterySomething that is unknown
PonderThink about
MinimalVery limited
FolkloreAncient stories or beliefs
PlaitTo cross two or three strands of hair to make it one long piece
State Council of Educational Research and Training (2019). Term-3 English Standard-6. A Tragic Love Story (pp 106-108). Published by the Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation.