A poem I found rather appealing because of the striking aspects of it was "Assisi" by Norman MacCaig.
Choose a poem which appealed to you because it was striking. Show techniques the poet used to capture your interest and engage your feelings.
A poem I found rather appealing because of the striking aspects of it was “Assisi” by Norman MacCaig.
The poem is set in the small town of Assisi in Italy. The poem is written in three short stanzas. The poet uses various techniques which run throughout his poem for example he uses metaphors and similes to show the selfishness of the tourists. The power and might of the church, the hypocrisy of the priest and the ugliness of the badly deformed beggar.
MacCaig immediately presents us with this shocking image of a deformed dwarf someone we can scarcely recognize as human. His descriptive simile ‘Sat slumped like a half filled sack on tiny twisted legs from which sawdust might run’ highlights the crumpled shapelessness of this sad little figure.
MacCaig highlights the dwarfs pitiful appearance by his use of alliteration, the repeated‘s ‘.
This is followed with a contrast. “Outside the three tiers of the churches built in honor of St Francis , brother of the poor, talker with birds “ this instantly tells us that St Francis was a very prominent man, he was a wealthy man who gave up his wealth to help the poor. “ Talker with birds “suggests that St Francis was sweet tempered, this showed me how important St Francis was.
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MacCaig wraps up the first stanza by saying “over whom he had the advantage of not being dead yet “ , this represents that the end may be near for the dwarf after living around the huge cathedral many years , he in now beginning to wear away. It also tells us that the only advantage the dwarf has over St Francis is that of not being dead yet. He is such an outcast that he does not have any advantages over St Francis. This extract makes me think how awful and lonely people who are less fortunate than me and you are.
MacCaig then enters the church in stanza two, “A priest explained how clever it was of Giotto to make his frescoes tell stories that would reveal to the illiterate the goodness of god and the suffering of his son.” I think MacCaig’s ambition here is to show the twist of the church, how the frescoes were made available for the illiterate to see however if only they could understand the actual message they would not be spending money on great churches like the one built in honor of St Francis , the money would be spent on a more worthy cause and in helping people that are in the same situation as the dwarf.
Another striking comment MacCaig makes is of the church, “I understood the explanation and the cleverness” MacCaig’s goal here is to show the irony of the frescoes, that they were designed to be available to even the most empty headed people yet the priest and the tourists fail to see the true meaning of them unlike MacCaig.It also shows hypocrisy, if the priest really cared then he would be out helping the poor dwarf.
At the beginning of the next stanza there is an extended metaphor comparing the tourists to hens. “A rush of tourists, clucking contently, fluttered after him as he scattered the grain of the word “. Here MacCaig is comparing the tourists who are following the priest to the hens following the farmer as he “scattered the grain of the word” .Chickens are well known to be greedy and unintelligent. In this instance tourists are hungry for the word of God but are too foolish to understand the meaning of the word. The tourists haven’t understood anything that they’ve heard and ignore the dwarf outside the church. This angers MacCaig. I found this quote rather appealing, it made me realize that there are a lot of mindless people out there.
MacCaig goes onto write” it was they who had passed the ruined temple outside, whose eyes wept pus , whose back was higher than his head” MacCaig again draws attention to the dwarf, someone who has no life and only a hopeless existence. When he speaks about the dwarf being a ‘ruined temple ‘he is stating that the dwarf is an absolute wreck on the outside but that is not what is important, it is what is inside that counts. Our body is the temple which guards our soul and it is our soul that is important to us.
MacCaig concludes his poem with “Whose lopsided mouth said Grazie in a voice as sweet as a childs when she speaks to her mother or a birds when it spoke to St Francis” we now have to think over what is actually important, as we discover that the dwarf has a sweet character, he is not harsh or hard and is grateful for the little he has. In contrast to the poor dwarf the church might be stunning on the outside but is uninviting on the inside as it is selfish and hypocritical. The descriptive simile is further increasing the shapelessness of this sad figure, the simile also helps you to imagine the innocence of the dwarf.
In conclusion, the poem has made me realize that many people out there are simple – minded and very child like. It has made me think how it feels to be less fortunate and how people evaluate people on their looks and not the person who is inside. I liked the techniques used by MacCaig and found them very effective. His use of similes and metaphors helped to create a very effective picture of the scene in Assisi. I almost felt as if I was there with him at some stages. MacCaig certainly captured my interest and engaged my feelings.