Form and structure

The poem is made up of a series of four-line stanzas - apart from the final line and verse of the poem - these emphatically stand alone.

The initial stanzas follow a loose rhyme scheme.

  • In stanza one the repetition of chrysanthemums and die provides strong end rhymes to the lines and adds emphasis to the sombre mood of this verse
  • Stanza two follows an abab rhyme scheme - a conventional scheme that reflects the conventions of bringing Lucozade to someone who is ill
  • In stanza three the rhyme between eyes, lies, size creates a sense of the constant repetitiveness of the hospital routine

The rhyming gives the poem a colloquial feel. This is in keeping with the teenage narrator.

The poem is symmetrical. From the colon that divides stanza four, the poem takes on a positive tone. The rhyming is lost and we get more insight into the mother’s character.

We could argue this lack of rhyme mimics a lack of conformity on the mother’s part: she rejects the usual ‘ill person’s’ gifts in favour of luxury and love of life. She is not prepared to give in to convention.

There is a switch in the poem between the mother’s passivity and her active dismissal of illness. The first three stanzas present her drifting in and out of consciousness, feebly issuing negative statements:

quote
Don't bring Lucozade

After she ‘wakes up’ in stanza four, she states what she wants:

quote
Where's the big brandy, the generous gin, the Bloody Mary

Suddenly her personality begins to come alive. This is followed by the daughter’s action of clearing away all the ‘ill person’s gifts’ which leaves the mother uplifted and energised (ironically the feeling that Lucozade was intended to provide).

The final images of the poem contrast with the opening ones as they are filled with light and beauty, in turn, happiness.