The tone of this poem is a tender one. The narrator might be anyone in or around the restaurant described by the poem but, because of the time s/he spends watching, it most likely is someone who works there.
What we know about him (or her but I’ll say he for the purpose of this analysis) is that he is moved by simple acts of love.
The poem’s message is that love provides people with dignity. While the scene of an old man, struggling to cut a sandwich, could have been a sad one, it is not. Nor is the poem just about work. The dignified way that the man’s wife “unrolls her napkin and places her spoon” makes a little ceremony out of the luncheon. While the first part of the poem concentrates on the labour, giving us details about the sandwich and work. In the final lines of the poem, we don’t see the sandwich at all, we see only the human relations built up around it.
A question to explore further, or ask your teacher: is this a Marxist poem? The poem is one poem, written as part of a larger collection, called Valentines, but it is different from most love poems because of the inclusion of work.
The poem is written in blank verse with little enjambment. Both techniques allow us to stay focused on the simplicity of the emotion, conveyed.
Can you tell me:
1. Who is the speaker and what is the occasion?
2. What is the central purpose of the poem? (When you are analyzing a poem, it usually helps if you notice the development of an idea from one stanza to the next stanza)
3. By what means does the poet achieve the purpose: Identify three elements of poetry (symbolism, metaphor, simile, personification, alliteration, rhyme, rhythm, form: sonnet, lyric, haiku)