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Kelso High School English Department. ‘Assisi’ by Norman MacCaig.

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Presentation on theme: "Kelso High School English Department. ‘Assisi’ by Norman MacCaig."— Presentation transcript:

1 Kelso High School English Department

2 ‘Assisi’ by Norman MacCaig

3 Where is Assisi?

4 Basilica of St Francis, Assisi

5 Upper Church

6 Lower Church

7 Who was St Francis?

8 St Francis Born at Assisi in Umbria, in 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.

9 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.

10 Franciscan Monks

11 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.

12 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.

13 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.

14 ‘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, 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. Description of beggar in negative terms Contrast with grand church and gentle saint Juxtaposition

15 ‘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’

16 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.

17 ‘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

18 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.

19 Stanza Two lines 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.

20 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.

21 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.

22 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.

23 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. Stanza 2, lines Enjambment Cynical/critical/unimpressed - portraying superficial message but ignoring the need for charity. Cliché – lost all meaning

24 Stanza Two lines 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

25 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”.

26 Stanza 3, lines 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.

27 Stanza 3 A rush of tourists, clucking contentedly, fluttered after him as he scattered the grain of the Word. lines extended metaphor More interested in looking like good Christians than actually being one. Absentmindedly following - Not understanding message - highlights the hypocrisy of the church and apathy of society to the poor and disabled. Attitude towards priest and tourists - Unfavourable/ disapproving.

28 Stanza 3 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 Juxtaposition: ‘passed’ Word Choice: ‘It was they’ Metaphor / Irony : ‘Ruined temple’ Imagery: ‘ whose back was higher/ than his head’ Tone: ‘whose eyes…lopsided mouth’ Religious allusions

29 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. Innocence Anti Climax- emphasise inner beauty/contrast with appearance 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.

30 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

31 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

32 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

33 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.

34 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.

35 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.

36 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.

37 Form and Structure Free verse Irregular stanzas creates a conversational style Language is deliberately unsophisticated – makes poem more accessible.

38 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

39 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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