The poet recalls a visit to an old couple; the old woman is helpless, and dying slowly. It is clear from the description that she has no quality of life. She is cared for by her husband who prays for her release from this life. Significance of the title: no definite article emphasises the universal nature of the experience Degradation of the old woman as this suggests she needs help. Simply eating to stay alive. Animal connotations. Simile – like an old horse. Useless, fit only to be put down.
Implicit introduction to the idea of euthanasia. Hypallagenransferred epithet. Food mashed not plate – like animal feed? Concision of statement suggests lack of interest in food. Negative word. Grey/depressing/dark world – no part of this life of any interest to her. ‘Its’ not her – dehumanises her For her death And she, being old, fed from a mashed plate as an old mare might droop across a fence Tone: ironic/critical of Calvinist faith. Poet questions what the woman could possibly have done to deserve such suffering. o the dull pastures of its ignorance. Enjambment suggests prayers are repeated yet they go unanswered – uncaring god. Her husband held her upright while he prayed o God who is all-forgiving to send down ‘Foreign’ – angel of mercy an alien concept to Calvinists who believe people are born to suffer. some angel somewhere who might land perhaps Underlined are unspecific to suggest scepticism on poet’s part Underlines the old man’s respect for god – he doesn’t make demands of him. in his foreign wings among the gradual crops.
Noisily/animal like She munched, half dead, blindly searching the spoon. Outside, the grass was raging. There I sat imprisoned in my pity and my shame Incapable like baby being fed that men and women having suffered time Trapped – like island life. Shame that he was once part of this culture. Contrasts with the lifelessness inside. Pathetic Fallacy – poet’s own feelings ascribed to the grass. -Raging at old people for adhering to their cruel god. -Raging with Calvinism for teaching such blind faith and stoicism. hould sit in such a place, in such a state euphemism and wished to be away, yes, to be far away Universal experience with athletes, heroes, Greek or Roman men Repetition/Allit. Cold/harsh who pushed their bitter spears into a vein and would not spend an hour with such decay. Enjambment to suggest trapped in Calvinist culture Civilised society rep. y classic literature where heroes would die heroes and not by the sword of their enemies. Hypallage/transferred epithet as bitter is the heroe’s feelings. Difficult to kill himself but even more heroic as it conserved their honour. Pray God,’ he said, We ask you, God,’ he said. Explicit ref to advantages of euthanasia. The bowed back was quiet. I saw the teeth Tighten their grip around a delicate death. synechdoche We are brought back to reality with the man’s actual words. And nothing moved within the knotted head but only a few poor veins as one might see Weak word ‘e the man didn’t plead. He knows nothing will influence god’s will. ague wishless seaweed floating on a tide of all the salty waters where had died too many waves to mark more or three.
Metaphor – We are no more to god than so many waves in the ocean. Death personified? Recalls woman feeding in stanza one. ’00’ sound – life dragged out beyond endurance Physical image: Veins stand out against paper thin skin Enjambment – Life drags on relentlessly Brain cells fused together no longer functioning Key themes: The meaning/pointlessness of life The benefits of euthanasia A criticism of Calvinism/indifference of god to the plight of the individual Old age/ decay Poet’s feeling of entrapment.