The title “Convalescence” focuses on the recovery from illness and despair. The poem dramatizes the moment of crisis in a man’s perception of himself in which “consciousness” puts into question his earlier life. This awareness seems to threaten the stasis that the speaker has apparently created in his life. It is described as a betrayal of long-established patterns of behavior.
The speaker seems to be the voice of the poet himself. He is attempting to preserve his integrity against the threats of a “consciousness” that attempts to bring unwelcome change. J. V. Cunningham does not make himself into a heroic figure in his poems but treats himself as rigorously and harshly as he does the negative types he satirizes.
“Convalescence” speaks of a betrayal of a way of life that had earlier been established. “Consciousness,” knowledge of oneself, is not a guide; rather, it betrays the silence and resignation that had earlier been achieved. “Consciousness” betrays the protective “silence” and is described as manifesting itself in the “fever” that has attacked the speaker. Illness brings on awareness that is seen as a threat rather than an insight.
Prior to this betrayal, the speaker had nearly achieved “simplicity,” described as a renunciation that is not an escape from loss but an acknowledgment of it. The language of this simplicity is curiously “to recite as if it were not said” and “to...
(The entire section is 424 words.)