- Taylor, Nancy
- Date of entry: Jan-24-2005
This series of 28 poems plus an envoy describe, from the patient's point of view, a 20-month stay in an Edinburgh hospital in the 1870s. The narrator delineates--from the cold and dread of Enter Patient through the giddiness of "Discharged"--his reactions to hospital personnel (from doctors and nurses to scrub lady); to his fellow patients (from children to the elderly, during bad days and holidays), to visitors, and to death.
Because he stays for 20 months, we also witness his seesawing emotions about his own state of health. The epigraph from Balzac suggests that a person in bed and ill might become self-centered, so the narrator purposefully maintains a dispassionate tone. It is a tone so distinct yet distanced that Jerome H. Buckley (William Ernest Henley: A Study in the "Counter-Decadence" of the 'Nineties, New York: Octagon Books, 1971, c. 1945) compares the poems to steel engravings.
William Ernest Henley, Poems, Vol. I