Kelso Assisi finalised

Report
Kelso High School
English Department
‘Assisi’ by Norman MacCaig
Where is Assisi?
Basilica of St Francis, Assisi
Upper Church
Lower Church
Who was St Francis?
St Francis
• Born at Assisi in Umbria, in 1181.
• He was the son of a rich merchant.
• After a care-free youth of fine clothes, partying and brawling, he
turned his back on inherited wealth and committed himself to God.
• He then lived a very simple life of poverty. He gave up his shoes and
fine clothes and became like the people he wanted to serve. He
begged, preached and built shelters and places of worship for the
poor.
St Francis
• He is known for following Jesus’s
example and helping the poor
and outcast. He showed that every living
creature, no matter how insignificant is worthy
of compassion.
• He led a group of followers which became the
Franciscan order of monks which still exists today
and who dedicate their lives to helping the poor.
Franciscan Monks
St Francis
• People with the contagious nerve/skin disease
leprosy (which caused disfigurement and loss
of limbs) were outcasts from society. People
would not touch lepers. Francis looked after
them.
The Poem
Situation
MacCaig observes a deformed beggar outside the Church of St
Francis in the Italian town of Assisi. The beggar is ignored by the
priest and tourists who are being shown Giotto’s famous frescoes.
Themes
 The hypocrisy of the Church – basilica originally built to celebrate a
man devoted to the poor, but now it has become celebrated for its
architectural merit and the priceless frescoes by the artist Giotto
which are housed within it.
 The plight/isolation of the disabled.
 Rich v. poor/social injustice.
 The apathy of society towards the less fortunate.
Stanza One
The dwarf with his hands on backwards
sat, slumped like a half-filled sack
on tiny twisted legs from which
sawdust might run,
outside the three tiers of churches built
in honour of St Francis, brother
of the poor, talker with birds, over whom
he had the advantage
of not being dead yet.
‘Assisi’ - STANZA 1
The dwarf with his hands on backwards
sat, slumped like a half-filled sack
on tiny twisted legs from which
Description
of beggar in
negative
terms
sawdust might run,
outside the three tiers of churches built
Contrast
with grand
of the poor, talker with birds, over whom
church and
gentle saint
he had the advantage
in honour of St Francis, brother
of not being dead yet.
Juxtaposition
‘Assisi’ - STANZA 1
The dwarf with his hands on backwards
sat, slumped like a half-filled sack
on tiny twisted legs from which
sawdust might run,
WORD CHOICE: ‘dwarf’
IMAGERY / TONE : ‘hands on backwards’
ONOMATOPOEIA: ‘sat, slumped’
SIMILE: ‘like a half-filled sack’
ALLITERATION: ‘tiny twisted legs’
METAPHOR: ‘from which sawdust might run’
SOUNDS ‘s’ / ‘t’
Effect / Purpose of lines 1-4
• Effect - dehumanises the beggar
• Purpose – to shock readers into a reaction.
Are we, like the tourists in the poem,
apathetic to plight of the poor and disabled?
• MacCaig verbally thrusts the disabled beggar
in our faces defying us to withhold our pity.
‘Assisi’ - STANZA 1 lines 5-9
outside the three tiers of churches built
in honour of St Francis, brother
of the poor, talker with birds, over whom
he had the advantage
of not being dead yet.
Alliteration / Contrast : ‘three tiers of churches’
Irony / Contrast: ‘in honour of St Francis, brother of the poor’
Tone: (sarcasm) ‘over whom / he had the advantage / of not
being dead yet’
Positioning: ‘yet
Stanza One - Juxtaposition
• Bringing two ideas (usually contrast) together for effect.
• Grotesquely disabled beggar placed outside
architecturally elaborate and beautiful church.
• Highlights incongruity that such an architecturally
complex building is used to honour a priest with such
simple tastes.
• Contrast between what St Francis represented and how
the church now chooses to honour him.
• Criticises the church which will spend a lot of money on
lavish buildings, but give nothing to the poor.
Stanza Two lines 10-17
• Moves inside the church where the priest,
who is acting more as a tour guide is showing
the aesthetic beauty of the church and
showing the paintings depicting the word of
God.
Stanza Two
A priest explained
how clever it was of Giotto
to make his frescoes tell stories
that would reveal to the illiterate the goodness
of God and the suffering
Of His Son. I understood
the explanation and
the cleverness.
Negative Characterisation of the Priest
•
•
•
•
Proud – shows off his church and its valuable paintings
Superior / Pompous – ‘that would reveal to the illiterate’ TONE / WORD CHOICE – Priest regards illiterate as inferior
to himself
Condescending – TONE / WORD CHOICE – ‘how clever it
was of Giotto’. Suggestion that he is almost giving Giotto a
pat on the head, as if the priest is superior to Giotto.
Commercial / materialistic – acting as some kind of tour
guide. No doubt collecting tips when he should be more
spiritually inclined.
Negative Characterisation of the Priest
• Self-indulgent – more interested in aesthetic
quality of the paintings than in pastoral duties.
• Hypocritical – talks about the ‘goodness of
God and the suffering of His Son’, but ignores
real human suffering which he should be
trying to alleviate himself as well as bringing it
to the notice of the people he is instructing.
Stanza 2, lines 10-17
A priest explained
Enjambment
how clever it was of Giotto
to make his frescoes tell stories
that would reveal to the illiterate the goodness
of God and the suffering
of His Son. I understood
the explanation and
the cleverness.
Cliché –
lost all
meaning
Cynical/critical/unimpressed portraying superficial message but
ignoring the need for charity.
Stanza Two lines 10-17
A priest explained
how clever it was of Giotto
to make his frescoes tell stories
that would reveal to the illiterate the goodness
of God and the suffering
Of His Son. I understood
the explanation and
the cleverness.
Tone : ‘I understood / the explanation and/ the cleverness
Punctuation: full stop after Son.
Positioning / Ambiguity : ‘cleverness’
Irony: whole stanza
Stanza 3
• Introduction of the tourists.
• Priest continues to show the crowd around.
They ignore the beggar.
• Further brutal description of beggar – list of
deformities. Anti-climax – surprising
description of beggar’s voice which is “sweet”
and “gentle”.
Stanza 3, lines 18-27
A rush of tourists, clucking contentedly,
fluttered after him as he scattered
the grain of the Word. It was they who had passed
the ruined temple outside, whose eyes
wept pus, whose back was higher
than his head, whose lopsided mouth
said Grazie in a voice as sweet
as a child’s when she speaks to her mother
or a bird’s when it spoke
to St Francis.
Stanza 3
A rush of tourists, clucking contentedly,
fluttered after him as he scattered
the grain of the Word.
Absentmindedly following Not understanding message - highlights
the hypocrisy of the church and apathy of
society to the poor and disabled.
More interested in looking like
good Christians than actually being
one.
lines 18-20
extended
metaphor
Attitude towards priest
and tourists Unfavourable/
disapproving.
Stanza 3
grain of the Word. It was they who had passed
the ruined temple outside, whose eyes
wept pus, whose back was higher
Religious allusions
than his head, whose lopsided mouth
Juxtaposition: ‘passed’
Word Choice: ‘It was they’
Metaphor / Irony : ‘Ruined temple’
Imagery: ‘ whose back was higher/ than his head’
Tone: ‘whose eyes…lopsided mouth’
Stanza 3
said Grazie in a voice as sweet
Anti Climaxemphasise inner
beauty/contrast
with appearance
as a child’s when she speaks to her mother
or a bird’s when it spoke
to St Francis.
Innocence
Final line is a reference to St Francis
which drives home the poet’s message
and condemnation of those who ignore
his preaching in favour of admiring
physical beauty.
Stanza 3
said Grazie in a voice as sweet
as a child’s when she speaks to her mother
or a bird’s when it spoke
to St Francis.
Irony: ‘Grazie’
Simile: ‘As sweet as a child’s’
Final two lines: ‘Or a bird’s when it spoke/ to St Francis’
Simile
Form and Structure
• Three distinct stanzas
• Stanza 1: speaker introduces us to dwarf
begging outside the basilica
• Stanza 2: focuses on priest who is acting as a
tour guide
• Stanza 3: examines the tourists’ reaction to
the dwarf
Form and Structure
• Each stanza begins with introduction of one
character / character group:
1. emphasises the lack of any
real contact between them
2. emphasises isolation of the beggar
Form and Structure
• Poem begins and ends with beggar – brutal
language at start, sweetness emphasised
at end.
• Poem returns at end to St Francis to remind us
of ironic position of beggar and to instensify
MacCaig’s criticism of a priest and a religion
that place more value on fine buildings and
valuable paintings than on the well-being of
its parishioners.
Juxtaposition
• 1. Grotesquely disabled beggar placed outside
elaborate and beautiful church.
2. Tourists walk past beggar to view frescoes
which depict suffering of Christ, whilst
ignoring the real suffering of the beggar.
Contrast
• Between ugly deformed beggar and elaborate
church he is sitting in front of.
• Between actions of St Francis and the actions
of religious people in the modern world.
• Contrast between what the priest preaches
and what he practices.
• Contrast between dwarf’s appearance and
reality.
Irony
• Contrast between what might be expected to
happen and what does happen.
• Instead of administering to the poor of his
parish, the priest acts like a tour guide.
• The Church is dedicated to St Francis ‘brother
/ of the poor’, yet a beggar sitting outside it is
ignored.
Form and Structure
• Free verse
• Irregular stanzas creates a conversational style
• Language is deliberately unsophisticated –
makes poem more accessible.
Attitude of MacCaig
• Compassion towards beggar
• Angry at the way people in general neglect
needy members of our society
• Anger at fact that Church does not appear to
help those who need it most
Theme: Homework
The hypocrisy of the Church.
The plight/isolation of the disabled.
Rich v. poor/social injustice.
The apathy of society towards the less
fortunate.

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