MacCaig starts off the poem by using different types of structure, including enjambment, repetition and word order, to deepen the reader’s understanding of this emotion, loss. MacCaig starts off by commenting on the visitor trying to keep his composure in the hospital, just before he goes to visit this ill patient for potentially the last time. “I will not feel, I will not
I have to.”
The poet uses enjambment here to make clear to the reader how serious a situation this really is, and emphasises on how this emotion of loss can make someone feel so different. This stanza also includes an example of repetition. ‘I will not feel’ repeated, along with the enjambment on the word ‘not’, collectively shows this explosion of emotions the visitor must be feeling, and the poet includes this to make the reader understand what this emotion is all about, and how emotions can alter peoples feelings in this horrific way. MacCaig also comments on the nurses in the hospital, using poetic techniques to successfully explore the theme of loss. “Nurses walk lightly, swiftly,
here and up and down and there,”
The listing used here by MacCaig is used to emphasise how much walking these nurses are actually doing, and how busy these nurses are looking after all the patients. The word order also shows how the poet is just describing the scene as he sees it, in his stream of consciousness. The word choice of ‘lightly’ and ‘swiftly’ is also ironic as these nurses have to deal with death and illness everyday, yet are being described in such a way that they don’t even have to think about their emotions when doing their job, they just get on with it. Another method used by MacCaig to explore the emotion of loss is his use of metaphors. He uses these metaphors to put a horrific image in the readers head to show them how ill this patient really is. “A withered hand
trembles on its stalk”
This metaphor here is describing the patient’s arm, and how frail and deformed it has become over time. The word choice of ‘withered’ and ‘stalk’ are both related to a flower, which is an effective comparison as the flower is traditionally the symbol of love, showing how close this visitor was to the patient. The word ‘withered’ suggests again how deformed this patient has got, and makes us therefore feel sympathetic towards the poet, as if it was us losing a loved one, and have to see them in that state, it would be a horrible feeling. The word ‘stalk’ is also used to show how fragile her arms are, and how it is as if one slight bend of them and they would break. Another metaphor used by MacCaig is, “She lies
in a white cave of forgetfulness”
‘A white cave’ is symbolic of the cubicle in which the patients lie in traditionally, with it also symbolising a burial place or a coffin. The word choice of forgetfulness suggests to the reader how long this patient has been in hospital, that it is as if she has been forgotten about. Also again, the enjambment again emphasises how lifeless and to an extent, worthless this patient seems to the world, as she is just lying there, not able to do anything. This phrase collectively shows how isolated this patient is from the nurses and the visitors. This is yet another example of the poet deepening the readers understanding of the emotion of loss, as the horrific imagery puts an image in the readers head, and then the reader can then relate to exactly what the poet is saying.
Yet another way in which MacCaig explores this emotion of love is describing the poet’s ultimate acceptance about what is finally going to happen to the...