Trio Notes

In Trio, Morgan describes a scene on a city centre street in Glasgow on a
winter’s evening. A trio of people (each carrying an object) is used to examine
joy and goodwill.
Buchanan Street at Christmas in 1967
In Trio, Morgan describes a scene on a city centre street in Glasgow on a
winter’s evening. A trio of people (each carrying an object) are used to
examine joy and goodwill. The happy group, and the items they carry,
symbolise happiness and hope and a contrast is created between the cold
weather and the inviting, seductive warmth of the trio’s friendship. The poet
uses positive images to describe the group and the items and finishes the
poem with a description of the lasting impression left by the group.
Lines 1 - 14
The first eight lines establish the setting in a well known street in Glasgow.
The present tense is use to allow us to feel as though we are witnessing the
events with the speaker. The speaker describes the cold evening, the trio of
people and lists the items they carry (a guitar, a baby and a chihuahua). A
comparison is invited between the trio and the three wise men, who brought
gifts to celebrate and honour the birth of Jesus.
These three also carry gifts - the guitar represents the gift of giving that we so
associate with Christmas, while the baby represents Jesus and the chihuahua
alludes to the animals present at the birth of Christ. Extending this analogy,
the Christmas lights referred to could symbolise the star followed by the
original Magi to illuminate their destination. The next five lines offer a
description of the items the trio carry. The chihuahua is wrapped in a tartan
coat, the baby in a white shawl and the guitar in a plastic cover topped with a
sprig of mistletoe.
Morgan uses a metaphor as he describes the trio, revealing that their breath
rises/in a cloud of happiness. Their breath becomes a cloud of joy and delight.
This is particularly effective at establishing the positive mood of the poem.
The breath of the group seems to envelop and protect them. The excited
optimism of the trio seems to be almost infectious and the speaker delights in
their exuberance. The voice of the young man is heard in the colloquial
exclamation, Wait till he sees this but! The use of the grammatically erroneous
“but” at the end of the sentence captures the Glaswegian dialect and reveals
how eager he is to see the reaction of the gift's recipient.
This mood is continued in the description of the chihuahua which is wrapped
in a tiny Royal Stewart tartan coat like a teapot-holder. This simile is lighthearted and compliments the hopeful mood established earlier in the poem.
The brightly-coloured coat becomes something whimsical and slightly
ridiculous in a good-natured way. Like the chihuahua, the guitar and baby are
also covered and protected in some way, revealing how precious and well
cared for they are.
The young baby is also described with a simile, bright eyes and mouth
like/favours in a fresh sweet cake. This simile is effective because it compares
the baby’s features to favours or treats on a wedding cake. This baby then,
just like a wedding becomes a symbol of love and hope. During this section,
Morgan’s word choice also contributes to the positive mood. The milky cover
on the guitar (a white colour, like that of the baby’s shawl) symbolises
innocence and purity. The mistletoe becomes a brisk sprig, brisk suggests
vitality and liveliness. This adjective, used to describe the greenery, also
conveys the energy, vigour and purposefulness in the trio's movements on
this cold, crisp evening.
Lines 15 - 19
There is a change in pace from the longer sentences in the first stanza by
using three exclamations in the depiction of the objects the trio carry, Orphean
sprig! Melting baby! Warm chihuahua!. The use of caesura a deliberate break
in the line through the exclamation marks – helps to focus our attention on
each of the objects.
The use of the three adjectives, Orphean, melting, and warm, is also
significant. According to Greek Mythology, Orpheus had the power to bring
objects to life through his music while melting and warm help to convey the
joy and happiness emanating from the group.
Despite the religious imagery presented earlier, the speaker makes it clear
that this is a secular poem in the line Whether Christ is born or not born. The
idea presented is that religious faith is no more relevant or important than the
feeling of goodwill and happiness that surrounds this trio, and that the
qualities of generosity, compassion and kindness are not exclusive to religion
but inherent in all of us regardless of faith or belief.
Christmas lights on Buchanan Street
Now, though, the speaker moves on to a deeper meditation, suggesting that
when confronted with this trio, the sorrows and sadness of life, the vale of
tears is effectively rendered powerless. This expression is a biblical phrase,
which is basically a metaphor for life’s problems and again alludes to religion.
The idea implied is that the friendship and camaraderie of this group is just as
fulfilling and enriching as any religious faith and equally able to offer
protection from life’s hardships.
The speaker then moves on to explain how fate is no match for the joy and
goodwill symbolised by the group. Fate is personified, becoming a foe which
abdicates/under the Christmas lights. Fate, the perils and difficulties of life, is
apparently forced into submission by the trio. We get the impression of the trio
possessing happiness and enjoyment which counteracts and provides an
antidote to the more difficult, negative aspects of life.
Lines 20 - 22
The power of the group is demonstrated again through word choice where the
dark parts of life that have troubled us throughout the year, personified as
Monsters become blank and are scattered, forced to retreat by the strength of
group’s goodwill. This metaphor of an army in battle is extended in the
description of the group as a march of three, with its clear connotations of the
Lines 23 - 27
The sentence structure of the final line yields an observation of the lasting
legacy of the group. Though they have gone, their positive spirit remains.
Morgan’s use of parenthesis reveals the speaker’s understanding of the
positive impact of the trio. It shows that, despite their departure, the group
have left an impression.
The conflict between happiness and despair, touched upon earlier in the
poem is continued in this final line. Morgan uses a simile, comparing the
happy sounds of the group to a sentinel which protects against sadness. We
hear of laughter ringing round them like a guard. Joy becomes a protector,
keeping negative feelings at bay. This is an optimistic message, suggesting
that the trio of people and their items symbolise hope.
One of the important themes in this poem is the value and power of human
warmth, and the happiness and strength that others can derive from this. The
group and their items represent the hopeful, joyful side of life. By evoking this
particular scene, the speaker is hoping that the reader can experience the
same uplifting feeling of contentment that he did. The joy and goodwill
emanating from the group is inspired by the tradition of gift giving at Christmas
yet despite the religious imagery, this is a secular poem.
The speaker suggests that fraternity and generosity can provide as much
fulfilment and protection from the negative aspects of life as any form of
organised religion. In a society which is becoming increasingly secular and
isolated, the speaker celebrates the positive attributes of humanity and the
strength that we can draw from one another.