I was seriously wondering if it's a problem to use the antecedent, which is "Mr Spooner", after the possessive pronoun "his". Also, I am wondering if we can use "his" without ever using an antecedent.

His blue eyes starred at the sky

Under the bridge to nowhere

His garment was gray as the sky

Below his house in the desert

Mr Spooner, he was called

His profession, unknown

Mr Spooner crossed the street with a wooden cane

With his old dog Pavlov

I am not sure if there's an historical antecedent for this, or not using an antecedent at all. I don't remember having seen something like this in a famous poem. Anyway, I don't want to be the first person to break a "grammar" rule that no one ever breaks.

2 Answers 2


This doesn't break any rule of grammar. It's common enough (in general, not in poetry specifically) to have a name: cataphora.

If you use a deictic word like his to refer to something that is never mentioned in the text, that is called exophora.

Something to keep in mind is that a poem is often preceded by a title that could refer to the same thing as a third-person pronoun in the body of the poem.

Here are some poems I found from a quick search on www.poetryfoundation.org that use cataphora or exaphora with a third-person pronoun like his or She:


Poems often use an implied antecedent and an implied or elided character. I frequently see "I", "You", "Him" and "Her" (and their possessive forms) with no explanation of who any of those persons are. For just one example consider the famous "Battle Hymn of the Republic" which begins with the line "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord." The Narrator / I-figure is never identified in any way.

  • I feel like it would be better to have an example of a poem that used an unexplained singular third person pronoun. However, the only examples I could come up with readily are my own unpublished works, and I'm not about to publish any of them. I know I've seen some famous works that are like this, I just couldn't name any of them off the top of my head, and have no idea how to search for this with internet search engines.
    – Ed Grimm
    Mar 16, 2019 at 4:33
  • @Ed Grimm : Yes that would be better, and I am sure I have seen such. If I can recall an example, i will add it. Mar 16, 2019 at 17:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.