‘Trio’ Edwin Morgan Music is a vital way of improving people’s happiness and mental health We can only be truly happy if we live in the moment It doesn’t matter what happens after you die; you should only care about what happens in this life. Without family and friends you cannot be happy Giving gifts is better than receiving them Everyone should celebrate Christmas We can find happiness in all sorts of unexpected or ordinary places Edwin Morgan ((27 April 1920 – 17 August 2010) Born Glasgow, Edwin Morgan lived there all his life, except for service with the RAMC, and his poetry is grounded in the city. Yet the title of his 1973 collection, From Glasgow to Saturn, suggests the enormous range of Morgan's subject matter. He was Glasgow's first Poet Laureate 1999-2002, and the first to hold the post of 'Scots Makar', created by the Scottish Executive in 2004 to recognise the achievement of Scottish poets throughout the centuries. The subjects in A Second Life (1968) ranged from the dispossessed and marginalised populations of Glasgow, in all the misery of the tenements due for demolition, to the trio walking up Sauchiehall Street, ‘laughter ringing them round like a guard’ as well as poets, Marilyn Monroe and Edith Piaf. Some of his wittiest concrete poems – ‘Siesta of a Hungarian snake’, the classic ‘Computer’s First Christmas Card’ are here, and the love poems that are much loved, ‘Strawberries’, ‘One cigarette’. Kevin McCarra remarked of the devotion to the city Morgan lived in all his life: ‘It is part of his purpose to bear witness to Glasgow while insisting that hope and realism need not be at odds. This is tricky work and all his talent is required to hold off glibness. Misery, violence and pain are on the scene, but they will not be given the last word’ Trio Coming up Buchanan Street, quickly, on a sharp evening a young man and two girls, under the Christmas lights – 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, their breath rises in a cloud of happiness, and as they pass the boy says, ‘Wait till he sees this but!’ Trio ‘Trio’ – basic denotation = 3. HOWEVER there are other possibilities too: 1. Trio suggests a group of musicians (fits with the poem as the man is carrying a guitar) The idea of music also goes with the general happiness and celebratory mood of the poem. Suggests a sense of harmony. The three seem to have a close loving relationship. By the end of the poem, the narrator uses these three characters to celebrate the possible harmony and togetherness of the whole human race. 2. The three people in the poem may suggest the three kings or wise men from the nativity story. The poem opens on Buchanan street in Glasgow (where the poet is based). This is a common shopping street which is busy at Christmas. He uses an everyday title and street to introduce the three linking them to the everyday/ordinary. Trio Coming up Buchanan Street, quickly, on a sharp evening a young man and two girls, under the Christmas lights The young man carries a new guitar in his arms, the girl on the inside carries a very young baby, The present tense emphasises that this is a snap shot of daily life. and the girl on the outside carries a chihuahua. He uses realistic details to bring the poem to life in a cloud of happiness, and as they pass – ‘Sharp’ has connotations of painful, biting cold and ‘evening’ suggests a darkness. Contrasts with the positivity within this poem. Morgan is setting up the idea that happiness can be found in unlikely/unexpected places. And the three of them are laughing, their breath rises the boy says, ‘Wait till he sees this but!’ Before the parenthesis it is as if Morgan/we are there watching the three approach. This parenthesis doesn’t close until 5 lines before the end of the poem when the three pass and we are snapped back into reality. What it contains are the imaginings about the positivity and joy these three can bring. They cheer up the watcher on this ‘sharp evening’. Repetition of ‘young’ – youth suggests joy/hope/possibility. Repetition of ‘carries’ – suggests support/togetherne ss/oneness Word choice ‘cloud’ – suggests togetherness as joins their breath and you see the warmth of their breath against the cold air. Highlights metaphorical warmth – their bond of friendship keeps them warm. Trio ‘under’ suggests a sense of protection/ being watched. Coming up Buchanan Street, quickly, on a a young man and two girls, sharp evening under the Christmas lights The young man carries a new guitar in his arms, the girl on the inside carriesa very young baby, and the girl on the outside carries a chihuahua. And the three of them are laughing, their breath rises in a cloud of happiness, and as they pass the boy says, ‘Wait till he sees this but!’ Use of dialect emphasises the everyday nature of the event, happening in a real place. – Morgan is using religious Christian iconography (the three wise men under the guiding star), but ironically this poem is exploring the idea that the enjoyment of Christmas is not connected to religious faith. The three are a ‘gift’ to the watcher as they bring so much joy. The chihuahua is a lovely mix of Mexican and Scottish suggesting Morgan believes in a Scotland where foreigners are welcome and can become part of our nation. Also link to the animals in the nativity story, who gathered round the baby Jesus in the manger. ‘teapot holder’ – a domestic image which connotes warmth and care. These three lines are the longest in the poem. Morgan doesn’t break them because he wants to show that love, generosity and happiness should not be restricted. The chihuahua has a tiny Royal Stewart tartan coat like a teapotholder, the baby in its white shawl is all bright eyes and mouth like favours in a fresh sweet cake, the guitar swells out under its milky plastic cover, tied at the neck with silver tinsel tape and a brisk sprig of mistletoe. ‘like favours in a fresh sweet cake.’ – positive word choice and favours suggests hidden treats. The three are a nice surprise for Morgan. A Christmas cake is normally shared with those we love/family and friends. The chihuahua has a tiny Royal Stewart tartan coat like a teapotholder, the baby in its white shawl is all bright eyes and mouth like favours in a fresh sweet cake, the guitar swells out under its milky plastic cover, tied at the neck with silver tinsel tape and a brisk sprig of mistletoe. Another connotation of the Christian nativity. ‘white’ has connotations of innocence and purity. ‘bright eyes’ suggests an alertness and interest in the world. Fits with the poem as the writer is very alert to the positivity he sees in the world. The chihuahua has a tiny Royal Stewart tartan coat like a teapot‘mistletoe’ obvious links to Christmas and love. ‘brisk’ suggest life and energy, which links back to early ideas of youth and newness. holder, the baby in its white shawl is all bright eyes and mouth like favours in a fresh sweet cake, ‘swells out’ suggests the man carrying the guitar is swelling with pride because he has chosen such a wonderful present that will make someone happy. the guitar swells out under its milky plastic cover, tied at the neck with silver tinsel tape and a brisk sprig of mistletoe. ‘silver’ suggests the guitar is being treated as something special. Not because of monetary value, but because of the joy it will bring. ‘milky’ – link to babies and something nurturing and natural. The poet uses an allusion to the Greek myth of Orpheus. An allusion is when a writer refers to something he expects his readers to recognise and understand. Morgan is suggesting that music (the sprig is attached to the guitar the young man carries) has the power to heal and even lift us out of ‘hell’. Orphean sprig! Melting baby! Warm chihuahua! The vale of tears is powerless before you. Whether Christ is born, or is not born, you put paid to fate, it abdicates under the Christmas lights. Monsters of the year go blank, are scattered back, can’t bear this march of three. Use of three exclamation marks suggests he is almost shouting out with joy. Seeing this everyday, simple thing gets him celebrating life. It is uplifting and optimistic. Orpheus was the son of Apollo and Calliope (one of the muses.) It was no wonder that Orpheus was a gifted musician, with such talented musical parents. The truth is, Orpheus was more than gifted. His music was magical. When he played the lyre, as his father had taught him, his songs could cast spells and soothe savage beasts. Orpheus loved his wife, Eurydice. When she died, he traveled into the Underworld. He begged his great uncle Hades to allow his wife to come back to earth as herself, and not reborn as someone else. Hades agreed to let Eurydice follow her husband back to earth and life. But, during the trip, Orpheus had to promise not to look back until both he and his wife were safely back on earth. Orpheus was worried that perhaps Hades would not send her after all. To reassure himself that all was fine, he risked a quick look behind him, and lost his wife forever. Word choice ‘abdicates’ - means to completely give up power willingly and is usually only connected to royalty. Morgan is again suggesting the power of these three. They can make fate, whatever it may hold, willingly disappear. The line layout reinforces this as the line seems to be giving up and walking away. Orphean sprig! Melting baby! Warm chihuahua! The vale of tears is powerless before you. Whether Christ is born, or is not born, you put paid to fate, it abdicates under the Christmas lights Monsters of the year This ties in to the sense of doubt in the next line. It is Christmas, but go blank, are scattered back, Morgan isn’t quite sure what he believes. He is suggesting than can’t bear this march of three. even without the birth of Christ happiness can still be found. Vale of tears is another allusion. is a Christian phrase referring to the tribulations of life that Christianity says are only left behind when you leave earth and enter heaven. Morgan is suggesting that these three are enough to make the vale of tears ‘powerless’. He is suggesting you don’t necessarily need to believe in God sometimes friendship and love are enough. Orphean sprig! Melting baby! Warm chihuahua! The vale of tears is powerless before you. Whether Christ is born, or is not born, you put paid to fate, it abdicates under the Christmas lights Monsters of the year go blank, are scattered back, can’t bear this march of three. Morgan reinforces this idea by suggesting the three are so powerful and magical they can defeat metaphorical ‘Monsters’ He mirrors the three with the the three ways the monsters will give up. They ‘go blank’, they ‘are scattered back’ and they ‘can’t bear’ it. Ambiguity of ‘march.’ Military connection – again showing the strength and power of these three. Also musical beat suggesting their strength comes from their harmony. End of the parenthesis that opens at the end of line 2. The dashes enclose the whole encounter. They remind us that it was just a single moment. Another possibility is the dashes protect and surround the trip. Their joy is special and rare and should be protected. – And the three have passed, vanished in the crowd (yet not vanished, for in their arms they wind the life of men and beasts, and music, laughter ringing them round like a guard) at the end of this winter’s day. Overall Message: Human life and love are special and sacred, with or without religion. Also acts as an aside. We know the three have literally vanished, but here Morgan contradicts this by saying that metaphorically they are still there. The effect they have had on him is lasting. 2nd use of parenthesis this time in the form of brackets. The laughter is ‘ringing’ – duality of meaning both the sound it makes and also their joy is protecting them. ‘like a guard’ again protecting. Form reflects content. The words about protection are protected by the brackets. Possible questions for ‘Trio’ by Edwin Morgan 1. Choose a poem in which the poet or narrator is reflecting on a joyful experience. Show how the reflections of the poet or narrator convey the joyfulness of the experience. 2. Choose a poem one of whose main ideas spring from the observation of a place or person. Show how the poet skillfully uses his observation of the place or person as a springboard for ideas explored in the poem. 3. Choose a poem in which you can recognise a point where the poem moves from description into reflection. Identify that part of the poem and show how effectively the poet uses description (of person, place or experience) to provide a springboard for his reflection on the central ideas of the poem.