Stanza two

In the second stanza, our attention moves away from the beggar to a priest who is showing tourists around the church. The mood changes from the pity elicited by the beggar to anger, as the speaker notes how the priest fawns over the cleverness of the artist Giotto to reveal to the illiterate the goodness/of God and the suffering/of His Son.

This heavy irony emphasises the hypocrisy of the priest, supposedly a man devoted to the teachings of the Bible yet who seems utterly unaffected by the sight of the beggar.

The priest references the goodness and the suffering captured in the priceless frescoes, but seems more impressed with the depiction of these teachings than in actually practising them himself.

Again, the stanza ends on a caustic note as the speaker succinctly dismisses the expertise of the priest with the short sentence: I understood/ the explanation and/the cleverness. It is clear that the speaker is offended by the obvious intellectual pride the priest demonstrates when he discusses Giotto’s work.

Again, the hypocrisy of the Church is revealed through the actions of the guide, since priests are supposed to be humble as well as compassionate. This priest is neither and MacCaig implies that intelligence without kindness has no value.