Stanza three

This sinister mood is extended in the third stanza in imagery blatantly evocative of Macbeth’s witches:

Yes, there they’d be cackling round the cauldron/spitting out the gristlier bits/of his giblets.

The language is deliberately gruesome throughout. The verbs spitting and gnawing emphasise the women’s determination to savour and pick over every detail of this failed romance.

The harsh alliteration of cackling round the cauldron combined with the depiction of the women as witches creates a distinctly malevolent tone.

Macbeth's witches
Macbeth's witches

It is clear from the assonance used in the line describing the women gnawing on the knucklebone of some/intricate irony that this is a feast to be savoured and enjoyed slowly.

There is a kind of delicate ferocity in the way the women consume every tiny piece of gossip.

Lochhead describes them getting grave and dainty as she recounts the petit-gout mouthfuls of reported speech. 'Petit gout' translates roughly as 'little taste'.

This idea of sharing just a tiny flavour of the lovers' break up conversation contrasts with the sense of gluttony and excess from earlier in the stanza.