The thought-provoking poem, Assisi, written by Norman MacCaig is based on when MacCaig went to Assisi to visit the beautiful church built in St Francis’ name. The main character we read about, a dwarf sitting outside the church, is described in a way which evokes great sympathy for him. The writer achieves this by forming a vivid description of the dwarf and using different techniques helping him create sympathy for the dwarf from the reader. The first four lines of the poem create an image of the dwarf which is not very pleasant. “The dwarf with his hands on backwards/
Sat, slumped like a half-filled sack/
On tiny twisted legs from which/
Sawdust might run”
The very first line of the poem is a very direct, blunt opening statement. The idea of the dwarfs hands being on ‘backwards’ is so disturbing that at once the reader starts to pity the dwarf. Using alliteration in the second line ‘sat slumped’ makes it seem that the dwarf sees no point in living anymore. The poet uses a simile to describe the way the dwarf was sitting, depicting him as a ‘half filled sack’ showing that the dwarf had been dehumanized by everyone surrounding him, making the writer annoyed that nobody is noticing the dwarf. MacCaig uses a metaphor on the third and fourth lines of the poem, ‘tiny twisted legs from which saw dust might run’ giving an idea of how small and weak the dwarf really is, not being able to move very far, therefore living a miserable life in the same place.
MacCaig refers back to the dwarf nearer the end of the poem, evoking even greater sympathy for him. “The ruined temple outside, whose eyes/
Wept pus, whose back was higher/
Than his head, whose lopsided mouth/
Said grazie in a voice as sweet/
As a child’s when she spoke to her mother/
Or a bird when it spoke/
To St Francis.”
The poet uses the phrase ‘ruined temple’ to show that the dwarf’s appearance is made in God’s image and even though his appearance may...