Stanza three and four

In stanza three we see clearly that the language barrier was surmounted by an instinctive bond between the speaker and his aunt. As a result the young boy feels safe and secure in the dark island of the box bed in Aunt Julia’s home.

It is enclosed and comforting and he vividly remembers lying in the absolute darkness listening to crickets being friendly. Again the affection he feels for her is evident in the decision to open this stanza with the pronoun Hers, emphasising her significance to him.

In stanza four, MacCaig employs personification to compare his aunt both with the elements he associates with this landscape, the wind and water, and within the objects and garments that for him are most evocative of her.

She appears to him to be vivid, larger than life, and so connected with the landscape itself she becomes part of it. The observations are those of a child, fascinated by both the curious and the ordinary.

In the poet's memory Julia becomes intertwined with the natural forces of wind and rain, in the description of the winds pouring wetly/round house-ends. At the same time he remembers her through a series of mundane domestic objects.

She was buckets/and water flouncing into them and also brown eggs, black skirts/and a keeper of threepenny bits. Again the impression conveyed is of a woman in constant motion: the transferred epithet used in the flouncing water gives a description of the deliberate, vigorous way she moved.

These metaphors seem to extend beyond merely describing Julia as an individual in order to use her as a symbol associated with, or representative of, the particular landscape, lifestyle and culture of this geographical area.

Aunt Julia, then, epitomises the specific way of life of the crofting islanders who worked the land in a harsh, unforgiving climate. Despite the arduousness of this lifestyle, there is a pride and honesty in it, which the speaker obviously admires. Julia could even be taken to symbolise the land and elements themselves in this part of the world – difficult at times, yet ultimately providing an honest, noble self-sufficient existence.