Snodgrass writes about an old veteran who took seven months to die. The voice in the poem is that of a hospital attendant who provided some of the tedious, technical care that kept Old Fritz alive all that time. Though Old Fritz's "animal" may have "grown / sick of the world," his "mind ground on its separate / way, merciless and blind." He endured, he kept on living. Old Fritz raged against death, although he also "whimpered" and cried "like a whipped child . . . . "


Despite the light, casual tone of the poem, the narrator seems to berate Old Fritz for being "nailed to your own rapacious, stiff self-will." The seven months of care were a waste, it didn't help anyone "to throw our good lives after bad," and meanwhile "strong / men starve." Yet, in the final two lines there is an astonishing change of tone: "No. We'd still have to help you try. We would / have killed for you today." It's not just the duty to do his job. The narrator shifts the entire focus so that the whole dying process can also be seen as a matter of loyalty, respect, and care.

Primary Source

After Experience


Harper & Row

Place Published

New York