Scottish set text – the final context question exemplar answer
Edwin Morgan – Trio, Good Friday and In the Snack Bar
Question: With close textual reference, show how the ideas and / or language of this poem
are similar or different to another poem or poems by Morgan which you have read (ref SQP
2013)
8-7 marks: At least three references to the text plus at least two other poems
Morgan’s poem ‘Trio’, with its strong theme of the importance of valuing and celebrating life
and love, fits well with two other poems of his; ‘Good Friday’, and the very well-known ‘In the
Snack Bar’, which may, on the surface, appear to contradict any such celebration but which
does, by the end of the poem, show the importance of humanity and kindness.
All three poems are written in the present tense and deal with an encounter which affects
the narrator in some way. In ‘Trio’, the encounter is in Buchanan Street on ‘a sharp winter
evening…under the Christmas lights’; ‘Good Friday’ takes place on a bus near Bath Street
and ‘In the Snack Bar’ in a nameless café, harsh with clattering, capsizing cups. While these
encounters may have been brief, they have all had a lasting effect on the poet and his
narration. The present continuous tense conveys a sense of immediacy and closeness to the
action, such as we see in ‘Trio’, where the laughter of the three young people almost carries
into our own lives:
The young man carries a new guitar in his arms,
the girl on the inside carries a very young baby,
and the girl on the outside carries a chihuahua.
And the three of them are laughing….
and in ‘Good Friday’ where the un-named man’s need for certainty and reassurance forces
him to say “I’m no boring you, eh?”, and again in ‘In the Snack Bar’, where we are told ‘An
old man is trying to get to his feet / from the low round stool fixed to the floor.’.
Religious imagery also runs through these poems, where we have connotations and allusions,
such as in ‘Trio’ to the three wise men or the Kings and their gifts of the original nativity story,
represented here as the ‘Royal Stewart tartan coat’ of the dog, the baby’s mouth ‘like a
cake’ and the guitar being wrapped up in tinsel and mistletoe. In ‘Good Friday’ we are
aware of the symbolism of the day, even if the man himself is not, and Morgan very
specifically tells us the time of the incident – 3 o’ clock- to mirror the time of Christ’s death on
Good Friday itself. The man’s quest for Easter eggs holds the key to Morgan’s view of the
importance of love; even if the man in the encounter does not understand the significance
of the day, he still feels the need to celebrate and show affection for his children, and the
poem ends on a positive image of the man departing the bus into the sun for his Easter eggs
/ on very nearly steady legs. The symbolism of the man in ‘In the Snack Bar’ going down, as if
to hell, then re-emerging to haul his blind hump through the rains of August ends with the
very powerful apostrophe of Dear Christ, to be born for this!, ultimately questioning the role of
religion in the lives of ordinary people.
Sensory description is another hallmark of these poems. While ‘Trio’ and ‘In the Snack Bar’
cover a wide range of sensory detail, helping to convey the immediacy and vibrancy of the
encounter, such as the narrator’s role in helping the old man wash his hands - clasp his soft
fingers round the soap…I press the pedal of the drier, draw his hands
gently into the roar of the hot air - or the celebratory exclamations of Orphean sprig! Melting
baby! Warm chihuahua! which come after the description of the gifts the trio are carrying,
‘Good Friday’ does not immediately appear as descriptive. However, we do get detail, in
this case through the man’s speech and the oblique references to the narrator’s responses
that we understand the situation and the point Morgan wants to make. We are told the man
‘flops’ as the bus ‘lurches’, and when the man departs, Morgan’s choice of line structure
cleverly emphasises the unsteadiness of the drunken man’s departure.
Scottish set text – the final context question exemplar answer
Edwin Morgan – Trio, Good Friday and In the Snack Bar
In conclusion, these three poems effectively and memorably convey Morgan’s enduring
belief in the value of life, love and friendship, with or without religion.
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Exemplar final question - Mr Clark