Stanza Three

The frontier is never somewhere else. And no stockades can keep the midnight out

MacCaig closes the poem in a stanza comprised of two sentences. Each makes a negative statement and they leave us with a pessimistic tone.

Like the Empire State Building, or the city, a frontier is often an artificial construct. In the Wild West, a frontier was often used to describe a border between societies, most commonly between those that were considered to be civilised and those that were not. MacCaig may be suggesting here that uncivilised acts are intrinsically linked to all human societies. By saying that the frontier is never somewhere else, MacCaig suggests that what we see as uncivilised is always with us, always a part of us.

Continuing his use of language linked to conflict, MacCaig writes that no stockades can keep the midnight out. Again, a stockade is a constructed barrier, designed to protect. When MacCaig again writes of midnight in this stanza, he repeats his reference to the metaphorical danger and distress that it can bring – it is perhaps even symbolic of evil. By stating that no stockades can keep this out, MacCaig takes the pessimistic view that humanity, despite its advances (represented in this poem by the skyscrapers), will always be impacted by uncivilised, basic human instincts.