(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

This is a late poem that shows some of MacNeice’s efforts to turn toward the more universal topics of religion and death. It is a three-stanza poem with five lines in each stanza. The lines are all approximately four-beat lines and are rhymed loosely.

The poem is a parable, telling the story of the departure and return of an unnamed youth. It opens with the young man receiving, as a gift from his father, a “box of truisms,” that is, “words to live by,” the kind of advice fathers have always given their sons. The box is shaped like a coffin, so the young man considers the words dead and of no use to him. He leaves the box on the mantelpiece. The young man suspects that the truisms are children’s toys that he has outgrown. What is more, his father has died and is also in a box, “skulking.”

In stanza 2 the young man leaves home, leaving the gift box behind. He travels into the world of experience where he “met love, met war,/ Sordor, disappointment, defeat, betrayal.” All of this leads to “disbeliefs.” Apparently the man loses his faith in his youthful ideals. It is through “disbeliefs” that he “arrived at a house” that “he could not remember seeing before.” The strange negative in that line indicates that the negative experiences have led him back to his childhood.

Stanza 3 reveals what he finds there. When he walks inside, he discovers that through his disbelief he has arrived “where he had come...

(The entire section is 405 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Brown, Terence. Louis MacNeice: Skeptical Vision. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1975.

Brown, Terence, and Alec Reid, eds. Time Was Away: The World of Louis MacNeice. Dublin: Dolmen Press, 1974.

Devine, Kathleen, and Alan J. Peacock, eds. Louis MacNeice and His Influence. Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, England: C. Smythe, 1998.

Kiberd, Declan. Irish Classics. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001.

McDonald, Peter. “Louis MacNeice: Irony and Responsibility.” In The Cambridge Companion to Contemporary Irish Poetry, edited by Matthew Campbell. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

McDonald, Peter. Louis MacNeice: The Poet in His Contexts. Oxford English Monographs. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1991.

McKinnon, William T. Apollo’s Blended Dream: A Study of the Poetry of Louis MacNeice. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.

Marsack, Robyn. The Cave of Making: The Poetry of Louis MacNeice. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Moore, Donald B. The Poetry of Louis MacNeice. Leicester, England: Leicester University Press, 1972.

Smith, Stan. Irish Poetry and the Construction of Modern Identity: Ireland Between Fantasy and History. Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2005.