The Stethoscope

Abse, Dannie

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poetry

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice
  • Date of entry: Sep-24-1999
  • Last revised: Oct-06-2015


The physician-narrator ponders the symbolic significance of the tool that typifies his profession, the stethoscope. Through it he has heard "the sound of creation"--the sound of life to be born--and the absence of sound that signals death. Should he, therefore, treat the stethoscope as if it were a religious icon?"Never! Yet I could praise it." Were he to praise it, he would "celebrate my own ears" that can hear "Night cries / of injured creatures" and "the wind / traveling from where it began."


The physician rejects the god-like power that is often associated with doctoring, symbolized by the stethoscope. Instead, he venerates human perception--the art and wonder of listening to and hearing human and other natural sounds, of communing with humanity and celebrating its poetry, the imaginative act of empathic listening.


White Coat, Purple Coat was first published in 1989 in Great Britain by Century Hutchinson.

Primary Source

White Coat, Purple Coat



Place Published

New York