Norman MacCaig Visiting Hour Visiting Hour Understanding After reading through the poem, write down what you think is happening in the poem. Themes Do you notice any themes at this stage? Stanza 1 How
does the poet help us be there with him, in our minds? What do the lines The hospital smellbobbing along. tell us about the effect of the hospital smell on the poet? What are the connotations of the colours green and yellow in this context? Stanza 1
The poet is making his way along the hospital corridor to ward 7 where his seriously ill relative lies. In stanza 1, the scene is set by reference to the poets senses. The hospital smell is typical of most peoples experience of hospitals. The poet creates mood through his word choice combs my nostrils. Suggests the smell is so pungent and unpleasant to him that it reaches right up into his nose hairs. greenyellow suggests colours of vomit, pus again emphasises his discomfort and unpleasantness of visit.
Stanza 1 SYNECDOCHE Lines 2/3 nostrilsbobbing along Of course his whole body is moving along the corridor not just his nostrils. The synecdoche focuses attention on the nostrils in order to strengthen the idea of the hospital smell being so overpowering, all other senses are blocked out. Stanza 2
What seems a corpse is trundled into a lift and vanishes heavenward. What do the words in bold tell you about the poets mood at this point? What is the effect of enjambment? Stanza 2
We know what is on his mind as when he sees the trolley, he immediately assumes it is a dead body. vanishes heavenward in fact goes up in a lift, but as far as poet is concerned, its on its last journey. He is clearly worried about his sick relative has he come too late? Enjambment the effect is to emphasise the last word of the line (his thoughts of death and finality) Trundled suggests the lack of care taken by the porter as if the poet thinks there is no point taking care as the person is dead. Supports his feeling of hopelessness. Stanza 3 The
poet repeats the words I will not feel. To whom do you think he may be saying these words and why? How does the repetition and rhythm add to the overall effect of the verse? Explain the last line of this stanza. Stanza 3
The poet appears to be talking to himself. The repetition intensifies the control he is trying to impose on himself, denying his feelings as they are too painful. Together with the staccato rhythm of this short verse with its monosyllabic words, the repetition heightens the atmosphere of tension. The last line shows the poet making a conscious effort to be detached he knows he will have to face up to the situation eventually, but not yet.
Stanza 4 Comment on the syntax (word order) of the line here and up and down and there. What effect does it achieve? What is the effect of the linking word and? What do these details tell us about the poets attitude to the nurses? What does he reveal about himself in his observations of the nurses? Stanza 4
This verse gives the sense of bustle in a busy hospital through the description of the nurses. Unusual syntax in line 12 highlights the ubiquitous (appear to be everywhere) nature of the nurses, as if they are everywhere at once. The repetition of and emphasises the distance the nurses cover and gives an impression of the speed they move at. There is a contrast in how the nurses and the poet cope with death. Burden conveys the extent of his anguish, yet the nurses are able to deal with many deaths their eyes clear.
Stanza 5 Comment on the effect of the full stop in Ward 7. Also, what is the effect of the use of the numeral 7? Find 3 examples of metaphor in this verse and explain the comparison being made, how appropriate the image/metaphor is, what is the effect it has/connotations? Comment on the use of enjambment in lines 29-30.
Stanza 5 She lies/in a cave of white forgetfulness. The bed is screened off by a white curtain like a cave. Forgetfulness because she is barely conscious. It is appropriate because she is cut off from the rest of the ward as effectively as if she were in a cave on the side of a cliff. Due to the coma, she cannot communicate with the poet, nor he with her.
The poet is immediately aware that she is not accessible to him, or him to her. White adds to the feeling of inaccessibility, as if he is seeing her through a white haze or white noise which impedes communication. Stanza 5 A withered hand/trembles on its stalk,
Withered is appropriate as she is dying and stalk suggests the weakness and thinness of her arm The trembling hand and eyes moving behind eyelids are her fluttering uncontrolled attempts to reach him, so he too, is alone with his pain. The enjambment emphasises the heaviness of the patients eyelids and the effort she is making to open them, to communicate with him. The flower image gives a sense of fragility and her beauty in the eyes of the poet who looks at her with love. Stanza 5
Into an arm wasted/of colour a glass fang is fixed/not guzzling but giving. Vampire image intensified by alliteration conveys his abhorrence at the sight of the drip feeding blood into her arm. He sees the needle as a fang biting into her arm, like a vampire drinking her blood. wasted of colour adds to impression that blood is being taken rather than given. Effectively conveys his pity for the suffering of the patient, his distress and the feeling that the whole process is pointless and intrusive.
Stanza 5 And between her and me/distance/that neither she nor I/can cross. He bends to kiss her but she doesnt respond. She is alone with her pain which has formed an invisible barrier between them. The image conveys his feeling of desolation and hopelessness at the inability to reach her. His isolation is emphasised by the enjambment I poised at the end of the line.
Stanza 6 How has the poet changed from the way he was at the beginning of the poem? Comment on the effectiveness of: The metaphor in line 34 Pun (play on words) in line 35 Paradox ( two opposing ideas) in line 37 Oxymoron (contradiction) in line 38 and Alliteration in line 38. Stanza 6 When the bell rings at the end of visiting hour, he leaves in a highly emotional state. Metaphor clumsily rises/in the round swimming waves of a bell. he escapes from his distress like a drowning man to dry land.
His self control has collapsed as he now stumbles clumsily from the ward. swimming could suggest his eyes filled with tears, as well as his head swimming with the emotion of the experience. Stanza 6 Pun growing fainter the poet would grow
fainter with distance from the patient and he is so upset he feels faint. Paradox Books that will not be read and Oxymoron Fruitless fruits intensify his distress and confusion. She is beyond his reach and he can do nothing for her. She is past reading or eating. He has gone through the motions of a visit but knows his presence has made no difference to the final outcome. Alliteration intensifies the futility of the situation. Visiting Hour
The themes of this poem are facing death (both of the patient and the loss of a loved one), inevitability of death (it is impossible to stop) and problems of communication. It is written in FREE VERSE (it has no pattern or rhyme) It is written in the FIRST PERSON poet can express his feelings from the inside, which an observer would be unable to detect. We see his feelings as genuine. Visiting Hour
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS (speaking to oneself, an interior monologue) style makes us sympathise with the poet as we can put ourselves in his position and identify with his feelings. We arrive with him, walk through the corridor with him and leave with him this increases the emotional impact of poem. We follow the build up and release of his feelings. Visiting Hour
The overall structure contributes to the atmosphere and mood. Stanzas 1-3 are short, staccato and create a sense of place, atmosphere and the poets feelings Stanza 4 sense of busy hospital Stanza 5 main action, sense of hush in the presence of dying woman. Stanza6 opening of floodgates of poets emotions in face of his inevitable loss. Visiting Hour Think about
Is it less of an ordeal for the dying person than the one left behind? Dying is something we have to do alone, despite being surrounded by loved ones? How realistic do you find the poets feelings?
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