The Boxer (by Emma Payne)
The Great iron figure crouches,
Scabs like flowers on his knees,
And his chest is like a mountain
And his legs are thick as a tree.
He spits blood like a cherub
In a fountain spouting foam,
Ringed around by swing ropes
And punters going home.
Broken- knuckled, skinny eyed,
Battered, bruised, and wet
With droplets like cold rubies,
And laced with bitter sweat.
He crouches in a corner
In his pool of sparkling red
And dreads the jeers which soon fall
Like blows upon his head.
The first stanza gives the physical description of the Boxer, using a lot of imagery . The man, who is very strong and has a good build, is described through images from nature to show that he is like a natural force , very tough and immovable (mountain simile, which also suggests that his chest is broad and muscular ). His legs are thick with muscle. His strength is displayed in his “great iron figure” (he is very hard to beat). But he is also hurt : he has “scabs like flowers” because they are bright red, This simile, which is creative and surprising, is the first hint of injury: the comparison between ugly, painful scabs and lovely soft flowers makes us think of the red symbols of his courage and perseverance)
Here we learn that he is struggling, through the juxtaposition between the calm and gentle action of “a cherub” spouting water in a fountain and the vulgar, violent action of spitting blood. This emphasizes that the boxer is very badly injured and is losing a lot of blood, however, he is really determined because he carries on with his fight and is determined to finish it off.
“The punters going home” show that people now are giving up on him : the match has ended because the people who betted that he would win, are leaving.
This stanza gives another physical description of the boxer, which contrasts with the one in the first stanza.
He is depicted as broken and badly beaten up, and “the cold rubies” may refer both to his drops of blood and to the gemstones, meaning that is he losing match and money. The “bitter sweat” can also represent the bitterness of defeat. This stanza draws further attention to the injuries sustained by the boxer: they seem to have dried up, which suggests he has already lost the fight.
The poet uses a simile to describe the boxer’s exhaustion during the match: he is very tired as he is sweating profusely and is losing water , which is necessary in an exhausting sport like boxing. Therefore losing it is like losing rubies in the poem.
At the beginning of this stanza the word “crouches” is used again, but with a different denotation: the man, once victorious, seems hiding at a corner, ashamed.
The poem ends with an effective image: the immovable boxer, crouching in a corner and almost down seems to refuse to lose. He has not fallen to the ground, yet, in “his pool of sparkling red” (his blood but, if linked to the theory on rubies, the pool of his lost money) , and he does not seem to fear all the physical blows on him but the comments of the audience, “the jeers which will soon fall/ like blows upon his head”. But the simile shows that the boxer is brave enough to stay and receive the jeers without walking away like a coward.. Though he faces the crowd’s jeers if he were to lose the battle, which is very likely, he is determined to finish the fight, regardless of his loss: he is strong-willed, brave enough to continue although he is badly injured and in bad condition.
This poem focuses on the theme of never giving up and the message it conveys is that even if we are knocked down, or are beaten, we can refuse to give in because we can get back up again.
The poem features many sound devices in this poem such as repetition and alliteration, imagery like powerful similes and metaphors.