Assisi Poem review

The Poem “Assisi” was written by Norman Mac Caig, and in it he describes his feeling at seeing a deformed beggar outside a grand ornate church. In my essay, I will argue that Norman Mac Caig’s motive for writing the poem is to arouse our sympathy for the beggar and our disgust at the church for its hypocrisy. In addition I will look into how he achieves this and point out the techniques he employs. Furthermore I will discuss the poet’s views and attitude towards the church and the beggar as well as how he challenges us in the way we treat people who are vulnerable and in need. Finally I will give my own opinions on the poem and the techniques employed in it.In the poem, a beggar is sitting slumped beside a grand, ornate and expensive church, whilst a priest is leading a group of tourists around the church. The tourists are taking photographs here and there but they are also fascinated by the beggar and take photographs of him too, however they help him in no way whatsoever. As the priest leads the tourists past some particularly excellent paintings he explains that the paintings were done by Giotto, a famous medieval artist who painted pictures for many churches so that the stories in the bible could be understood by those that could not read.The poet arouses our sympathy and creates a sense of pathos towards the beggar in several ways. Firstly, he describes the beggar as a “dwarf” which indicates he is vulnerable as well as being physically short, also the beggar is portrayed as a bag,’slumped like a half-filled sackon which tiny twisted legs from whichsaw-dust might run,’here the poet dehumanizes the beggar, making him appear to be more of an object than human, in addition the poet uses onomatopoeia, ‘sat, slumped…sack…sawdust might run,’ the repetition of the letter ‘s’ makes us almost hear the seeping noise made when sand is spilling out of a sack. Then the poet compares the barely living beggar to the magnificently decorated and expensive church, as the beggar is juxtaposed to it. Finally, the poet uses irony in his tone, ‘over whom he had the advantage of not being dead yet,’ whilst on a literal level, the poet says the beggar is in advantage to saint Francis because he is at least still alive. Yet on a deeper level, the poet is suggesting that the beggar might just as well be dead since his life is so much pain and misery. Overall I believe Norman MacCaig has very successfully aroused our sympathy for the beggar using all the techniques mentioned above.Norman MacCaig portrays the church as sly, cunning and hypocritical in verse two. The priest is explaining to a group of tourists about some paintings done by Giotto, an Italian painter who lived in the medieval age, and was famous for his frescoes showing human expressions as well as painting pictures to help those who could not read to understand the stories in the bible. The poet claims that he not only understood the priest’s explanation but also the cunning tactics employed by the church, ‘I understood the explanation and the cleverness.’Here the poet uses a pun: whilst the literal meaning of the word ‘clever’ means that it was smart of Giotto to paint pictures to help the illiterate to understand the bible; on the other hand, he alleges the church is cunning and sly, using charity as an excuse to decorate splendid churches and cathedrals instead of spending the money on the poor such as the beggar. In this way Norman MacCaig arouses our disgust at the church and highlights its hypocrisy.The poet further arouses our anger and disgust at the church, as well as the tourists, in verse three. He achieves this in several ways: first of all, he uses extended metaphors and onomatopoeia to stimulate the reader’s imagination and create a scene of tourists rushing about, taking photographs here and there and completely ignoring the beggar slumped in a corner,’A rush of tourists, clucking contently,fluttered after him as he scatteredthe grain of the word,’here the ‘rush of tourists’ describes the noise of tourists as they rush back and forth. ‘Clucking’ would probably be describing the noise made by cameras and ‘scattered the grain of the word’ describes the priest giving information as if he was god or a bible. This frantic scene makes the beggar seem even more vulnerable and gives the impression that the priest and the tourists are uncaring and apathetic.This is because they merely pass by the beggar yet do not bother helping him in any way whatsoever. Furthermore, the poet emphasizes the hypocrisy of the church as, although the church encourages people to help the poor, they do nothing themselves to help the poor beggar. To further arouse our sympathy for the beggar, Norman MacCaig uses very graphic descriptions of the beggar’s grotesque appearance, ‘eyes wept pus, back higher than head…lopsided mouth.’ Yet ironically, despite this disturbing and sick description, the beggar’s voice is very sweet and kind,’said Grazie in a voice as sweeta child’s when she spoke to he motheror a bird’s when it spoketo St. Francis.’Here Norman MacCaig gives out the message that you should not ever judge people by appearance.To sum up, it is my view that Norman MacCaig very successfully arouses our sympathy towards the beggar and our disgust at the church, using a wide variety of techniques ranging from onomatopoeia, similes, metaphors, dehumanization, juxtaposition, irony and very graphic descriptions of the beggar. The poem also has a wider message in challenging us all to do something to help others who are maybe not as well off as ourselves or are vulnerable and in need. It also tells us not to judge people on looks alone and that you should be wary of those who try to cheat you for your money. In my opinion Norman MacCaig has been very successful at carrying his messages through. I really enjoyed the poem and it has really challenged me in that I will bring a gift for a school charity for some child at Christmas, who is not as well off as myself.

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