The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Blindman” unfolds in six stanzas consisting of three lines each. Its irregular meter is not without rhyme. The poem consists of rhyming couplets, some of which span the stanza breaks, as the last line of one stanza is completed by the rhyming first line of the next. The title prepares the reader for an experience without sight. As a blind person must rely on other forms to “see,” those with sight are shown how color can be more than an abstract concept for someone who has never witnessed rainbow hues.

Those who are born with the ability to see take color for granted. Children learn color at a very early age without much difficulty. This simple lesson is recorded, and for the remainder of one’s life the brain recognizes various colors with no need for translation. In May Swenson’s “The Blindman,” the speaker watches as a blind man uses his other senses to “see” colors. The poem begins with the man tasting the color purple by placing “a tulip on his tongue.” In the second stanza, feeling the blades of grass against his cheek, the man construes the color green.

In the third stanza, the blind man’s tears are described as “fallen beads of sight.” This image leads one to believe that the blind man is not quite satisfied with his limited grasp of color. Nonetheless, he continues to grope for answers and lets the reader know that he is aware of these descriptive words.

The poem shifts from the third...

(The entire section is 470 words.)