Evening in the Sanitarium

Bogan, Louise

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Apr-08-2002


It is evening; the shades are drawn; the sanitarium is quiet. Inside, the inmates knit and play chess. "The period of the wildest weeping, the fiercest delusion, is over. Inside, everyone has quieted down; even "the manic-depressive girl / is leveling off." There has been a certain amount of improvement. The poet salutes the fortunate ones; for example, the older wife "who has been cured of feeling unwanted" and will soon be home, feeling "as normal and selfish and heartless as anyone else." There is so much to be happy about. Soon the drunks will be cured, and all the cats will be happy. And so, as we leave this scene, "Miss R looks at the mantelpiece, which must mean something." [35 lines]


Who was it said that most of us lead lives of quiet desperation? In this poem the mental patients' bizarre behavior and wrenching emotions have all passed; the patients appear normal now. They look and act just like they did before they were "sick." But perhaps they have lost something in the process of being "cured," or at least not found what they were searching for. In the back of her mind Mrs. C "feels the shadow of the obsessive idea," and Mrs. R, as noted, is trying to figure out what the mantelpiece means. Mrs. C, Mrs. R, and the other people in the sanitarium are much like the rest of us.


Preface by Richard Wilbur

Primary Source

Sixty Years of American Poetry


Henry N. Abrams

Place Published

New York




Robert Penn Warren