The opening of this stanza involves a subversion of the usual order by asserting
She grieves for my grief. Again this reinforces the bond the two shared while she was alive. It implies she couldn’t bear to see him sad and suffering.
In his melancholic imagination she is permanently caught in the act of dying, and he pictures her telling him how
that bird dives from the sun and
that fish leaps into it.
Both of these images represent a reversal of the normal order of things. The bird should fly towards the sun, and the fish should dive into the depths of the sea away from it. Death, by implication, is seen as a reversal of the natural state of living.
These images are, in their way, things of beauty in their constructs of language. MacCaig acknowledges this in the comparison of the way his mind is shaped by them to the way a crocus is
carved or shaped by nature.
A stark contrast is made, though, at the end of the stanza. Reinforcing this contrast is the use of both a dash to indicate a change of direction and contrastive conjunction
but to do likewise.
What follows is a metaphorical image of him hearing
other words, black words which whisper to him of the horror of the oblivion of the grave.
This is conveyed in a number of ways - again by a paradox, specifically the oxymoronic
sound of soundlessness, which echoes the earlier paradox in stanza one.
There is also a chilling image of her
continuously going into a
nowhere these black words
name. Death is presented as a kind of metaphorical journey that has no destination and never ends.