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The speaker in the poem is the poet himself and later in the poem he seems to be talking to someone. We think it is probably a woman because of the words 'curled papers' which she seems to be removing from her hair, having put them there the night before to make her hair curly. She then dozily rubs the ‘yellow soles’ of her feet with soiled hands - the whole scenario seems to be one of neglected dinginess, suggesting that the poet is disgusted by the contrast of beauty and the ugly grey monotony of real life. He seems to resent the 'sham' of pretending that life is anything other than a dull, ugly waste of time for most people.
At the end of the poem we hear the speaker again as the poe shows us his own perceptions. In a prayer-like way, he asks for an 'infinitely gentle’ hand to reach out and comfort, to touch us as humans and cure our ills. He shows empathy for the boring lives of other citizens who have to slave all day til late afternoon until they can get back to their only unexciting comforts of pipe smoking and reading the paper. We are left with a feeling of waste.
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