November Night, Edinburgh is a wonderful poem by Norman MacCaig. This poem is describing the horrible winter in Edinburgh, Scotland. The winter described is a cold, terrible winter with frost and pollution. This poem follows a 4-line 4-stanza structure. This poem does not have any rhyming in it, but one could argue that MacCaig has structured the poem so that it resembles the tenements that he has described in the picture. This poem uses strong figurative and literal language to create wonderful imagery, and appeals to the senses.
MacCaig has used metaphors, similes and personifications to enhance this poem. A personification in this poem that stands out is “The brown air fumes at the shop windows, tries the door and sidles past.” (stanza 1, line 3 & 4) The brown air is the heavily contaminated air, trying to infect our body with the poison that it contains. The air seems as though it is the enemy to our human body, and we create barriers, such as doors and windows, to protect us from the air.
MacCaig uses interesting metaphors throughout this entire poem. One metaphor is “I gulp down winter raw.” (stanza 2, line 1) This is a strong metaphor, as it creates that this winter is cruel and agonizing. But, this metaphor also has a literal meaning. To face “winter raw”, means that he has to face winter without any protection. He could be homeless, no heating in his house, or no jackets to insulate heat.
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This poem illustrates the air on this winter’s night in Edinburgh multiple times. “In a brown fuzz of cotton wool”, (stanza 2, line 3) describes the air with vivid figurative language. The cotton wool stated in the line are the clouds in the air, while the brown fuzz is the pollution. The cotton wool could also mean that the air is like cotton wool and brown fuzz, making it taste horrible, and stuck in your throat as it is dirty cotton wool.
“Frost in my lungs is harsh as leaves”, (stanza 3, line 1), is a strong simile used in this poem. The dead, sharp leaves, lying in his lungs, are sharp. Piercing through the organs, pain coming every time he inhales. This simile has the power to allow you to imagine the amount of pain that he has to endure while breathing. This is simile is creates imagery, feeling the pain as the sharp, dead leaves in your lungs, cause pain every time you breathe in and out. Winter is a cold, bitter season. It is when all the insects lay their eggs, and die. It is when we retreat to the comfort of our homes, where the warmth heats our bodies. “The world’s a bear shrugged in his den”, is a metaphor used by MacCaig to explain this situation. A bear hibernates in his den, just like how we retreat to the warmth of our own house. The outside is lonely and cold,
This poem had a lot of figurative and literal language. My favorite line of this poem was “frost in my lungs is harsh as leaves”. I believe that this is a definitely a strong simile, as you are able to imagine the pain from breathing the frost. Overall, MacCaig has described this poem with imagery using figurative and literal language. In every instance, MacCaig has described this winter as an enemy, and nothing is good about it. There is no line where he has stated anything optimistic about this bitter winter.