Assisi Poem Critical Essay On Lord

The main themes of this poem are suffering, poverty and the hypocrisy of the Church.


Suffering is a central concern of the poem. MacCaig’s imagery, when describing the figure outside the basilica, makes us pity him for his condition. What is clear, however, is that the suffering figure gets little, if any, attention.

The tourists spend time in the basicila itself, obediently following their guide. We are told they passed the beggar by but we do not get the impression that anyone stopped or considered his situation.

In essence then, MacCaig forces us to see that society has become blind and apathetic to the suffering of others.

It is perhaps deliberately ironic that in order to truly appreciate the art of Giotto, a keen sense of sight is required, yet neither the tourists nor the priest can see the plight of the pitiful existence of this human being.


Poverty is also a prominent theme. The existence of poverty in a world which has built great monuments (like the Basilica of St Francis) suggests a fundamental imbalance within society - the chasm that exists between those with money and those without.

This message is as pertinent today as it has ever been. We are part of a generation that cites in response to charitable appeals.

It is not enough to tell people that suffering exists and help is needed, so charities employ increasingly emotive imagery to encourage people to donate.

The speaker’s suggestion that the sight of the ruined man outside the church is unremarkable to most reveals the extent of this apathy. Another important irony, of course, is that the beggar sits against the magnificent backdrop of the church built to honour St Francis, who dedicated his life to the poor.

The hypocrisy of the Church

The powerful contrast between the of the beggar and the beautiful basilica reveals how far the church has deviated from the key teachings of Christ, who taught that the poor and marginalised in society were of equal value to those with status and wealth.

Similarly, MacCaig’s caustic depiction of the arrogant vanity of the priest, showing off his knowledge of Giotto to impress the tourists, provokes us to contrast his lack of empathy and compassion with that of St Francis.

A Critical Evaluation of Assisi by Norman MacCaig Essay

1474 Words6 Pages

A Critical Evaluation of Assisi

Q: Choose a poem in which the poet has put across a definite point of view. By close reference to the poetic techniques used, show how successful the poet has been in making you share his/ her point of view. “Assisi” by Norman MacCaig is an intriguing and thought-provoking poem, which has put across a definite point of view to me which I believe is that all people should be treated equally and we should try to help those less fortunate than ourselves. In this essay I will show how successful the poet has been in making me share his point of view, with the help of literary techniques such as language, word – choice and imagery.

Norman MacCaig has put across a definite point of view for me…show more content…

In addition, another aspect of language, which MacCaig uses to put across his point of view to me, is alliteration. The poet uses this in stanza three when he refers to the tourists who ignored the dwarf and went after the priest, who was also ignoring the dwarf as he says,

“A rush of tourists, clucking contentedly,

Fluttered after him as he scattered

The grain of the word.”

By using these lines and the technique of alliteration of the letter
C, MacCaig is alluding to the parable of the sower when the seed fell on the path and the birds came to eat it up. Here MacCaig is comparing the tourists that are at the church to being the birds in the parable of the sower. This is because in the parable, the sower threw seed on the ground for the birds to eat and they were clucking around him after it. This is a comparison as this is what is happening with the tourists that are fluttering around the priest as he spreads the word. This helped MacCaig to get his point across to me as it helped me to understand the poem better by referring to the parable.

MacCaig also uses pun to get his point of view across to me as he says, “I understood the explanation and the cleverness.”

Here, the use of pun is through the word ‘clever’ as in reality it means that it was skilful of Giotto to paint pictures to help the illiterate understand the goodness of God. However MacCaig also is trying to

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