To What Extent Does the Structure, Language and Form of ‘the Swing’ by Don Paterson Explore His Ideas About Guilt Within the Context of His Collection, Rain?

To what extent does the structure, language and form of ‘The Swing’ by Don Paterson explore his ideas about guilt within the context of his collection, Rain?

Don Paterson has described his 2009 collection, Rain, as ‘wall-to-wall death and divorce’. Rain is written in response to the death of his friend, Michael Donaghy, and the collection has an elegiac tone with guilt as its major theme. An analysis of Rain gives an understanding of Paterson’s feelings about peoples’ response to guilt. Such a reading is usefully applied when considering the poem ‘The Swing’. Paterson begins by describing the construction of a swing for his twins before using the toy as a metaphor to describe his guilt for the abortion of his child. He then explores metaphysical ideas concerning the definition of life and the existence of God. To complete the circular structure of the poem he returns to the swing. In doing so, he shows his changed attitude resulting from this metaphysical contemplation, a change which has caused him to look at the abortion dispassionately in order to deal with his guilt.

The swing is a recurring motif, including when, ‘The swing was picked up for the boys’, the rope swing ‘over a stream’, its ‘sweeping…radar-arc’ and the swinging action of the pendulum alluded to by the ‘fulcrum of the hour’. The continuing re-appearance of the swing represents how his guilt may rise and fall but will never fully dissipate. He also uses a swing as a metaphor in ‘The Story of the Blue Flower’, a poem which symbolises guilt about the loss of childhood innocence within a narrative concerning child abduction. His guilt here concerns missing his twins' growing-up due to spending his time writing poetry, while in ‘The Swing’, he feels guilty about preventing
his child from experiencing life.

The tone of the poem is sombre, with words like ‘hung’ having dark connotations. The mood is melancholic, for example referring to the transition from birth to death in ‘dark to dark’. His...