Poet Edwin Morgan
Poet Edwin Morgan

Much of Morgan’s work was inspired by ordinary people and places and in this poem, Morgan uses his acute skills of observation to describe the plight of a blind, infirm elderly man to make a social comment about how we treat others less fortunate than ourselves.

The poem begins with a description of a cup tumbling over in a café and ends with the speaker’s reflections upon the blind man’s predicament.

The speaker forces us to consider the reality and hardship of such an existence, as well as confronting our own attitudes towards the vulnerable in society.

This is an uncomfortable poem evoking a range of emotions beginning with revulsion, then pity and embarrassment before ending on a note of utter despair and anguish.

Form and structure

The poem is written in free verse and divided into three stanzas. Using the present tense creates a sense of immediacy and allows the reader to more effectively share this experience. In the opening stanza the speaker vividly describes the blind man, the subject of the poem.

Stanza two focuses on the ordeal of helping the man go to the toilet while in the third stanza the speaker reflects on this experience.

The use of free verse and the narrative stance creates a natural, unrestricted style and allows the reader to witness the gradual shift in the speaker’s emotions as he slowly changes his perceptions of the old man.

The imagery and repetition employed throughout this poem is incredibly powerful, evoking first pity and then compassion for the hardships and humiliations the old man is forced to endure on a daily basis, as well as admiration for his tenacity.