Form and structure

MacCaig was a lyric poet and a master of precise observation and dry wit. This poem is written in free verse made up of four irregular stanzas.

Poet Norman MacCaig

It is in chronological order and the division of stanzas helps to focus the reader on the specific idea contained in each.

In the opening stanza, the speaker describes natural sounds - horses, a bird, waves and a waterfall.

On its own, this stanza paints a pleasant picture and indicates the speaker’s delight in nature - such apposite descriptions reveal affection for the natural world.

When we read what follows, this stanza acts as an important counterpoint to the darker, more emotionally raw descriptions of the speaker’s feelings.

The shut door, described in the second stanza, is the turning point of the poem. Here the ideas move from a delight found in a variety of natural sounds to a reflection upon one specific experience - a parting.

The personal nature of the poem is apparent in the third stanza as the speaker addresses the person who has left.

The impact of this parting is conveyed through the hyperbole employed to describe the fire.

We get the impression of a figure, suddenly alone, faced with the consequences of a separation.

Having established the theme of the poem, the speaker moves on to offer an honest assessment of how deeply he has been affected by the experience.

The shock of freezing water, followed by the numbness, conveys the complexity of parting.

The relationship has meant a lot to the speaker and the separation, though painful enough during the moment itself, has left a lasting impression.