The use of sarcasm and satire word choices in Sweet Meat Has Sour Sauce by William Cowper allows readers to view the poem through simpler ideas despite the underlying theme being such a societally heavy topic. This poem calls out society’s acceptance to slavery and more importantly, their ignorance in understanding the evil in slavery because of their choice to be oblivious to them. I want to hone in on the first stanza. The use of the word “trader” is used with double meaning. This word draws the reader into understanding the speaker’s occupation, but in reality, also is a note to the speaker’s character. “Trader” is also interpreted as “traitor”, showing how the reader is so disloyal to the African shore that they are harming it. The word “traitor” holds deeper levels of betrayal, especially because you can’t betray something without already having an established trust or responsibility to it. Although the speaker may not be from the African shore, the pre-established trust or responsibility there is to the people of the African shore. That pre-established responsibility is there because the speaker (a human) has the pre-established responsibility to other human beings.
There is also heavier irony in the third line, “I’ll sing you a song which you ne’er heard before.” (619). This line has elements of sarcasm that play into the intentional irony in this poem. The messages of this poem being reduced to the simple expression of a “song” conveys this childlike naivety. This feeling is significant because it exaggerates an assumed stupidity for the audience that the speaker is talking to, and by doing this, the speaker is also calling the audience (the society that accepts slavery) stupid (for lack of a better word).
The most recurring showcase of sarcasm/satire is the repetition at the end of each stanza that says, “Which nobody can deny, deny, | Which nobody can deny!” There is a tune to these lines that plays into the theme of childlike naivety, and similar to line 3, the concept of song being used as a tool to convey this childlike naivety. This use of repetition is also used to engrave this naivety into every section of the poem. This is important because it shows how the structure of this poem is set to express the contrast from childlike naivety to inhumane ignorance.