Visiting Hour


A cannula in the arm of patient in hospital and a sheet covered body on a trolley

In Visiting Hour, the speaker describes a visit to a dying friend in hospital. In the poem, the speaker is determined to maintain his composure in order to prevent transmitting his worry and fear to his friend.

This attempt to switch off his emotions, however, is ultimately unsuccessful and in the end he is forced to confront the reality of both his own and his friend’s mortality.

Form and structure

The poem is a stream of consciousness from a first person stance which allows us to experience the emotions of the speaker as he is feeling them. It is written in free verse and the present tense, and follows the chronological order of the visit.

MacCaig often employs the techniques of enjambment and repetition in this poem to emphasise the central ideas.