Carson compares two very different people, linking the woman to death and the man to vitality and nature.
The woman’s lifeless ornaments contrast to the flower images associated with the sweeper’s brush and the soot he extracts.
The poet compares the cloth covering the furniture to a funeral suit, ‘shrouded’. The brush’s head is compared to a sunflower blooming. The black streak in the pansy is compared to a bruise, to show that anything that comes out of that woman’s house is touched by death. The word bruise also suggests the woman’s heart is bruised by her excessive caution.
Most of the words are simple. The poem sounds like a story told in everyday speech. Some of the longer words like ‘mournful’ and ‘dissolving’ sound dreary or mournful. This effect helps us to feel the woman’s sad personality.
Carson mocks the over-cautious woman by imagining that she rolls the carpet back to dance. He imagines the chimneysweep kneeling for prayers. He suggests the soot from the house bruises the pansy’s heart.
There is a gloomy [morbid] tone in the first two lines. Then the tone lightens with the humour of moving the ornaments and preparing for dance. But a sense of fear and staleness dominates the poem. Later the tone becomes matter of fact. There is a sense of sadness at the woman’s lifestyle.
Feelings of decay, mischief, embarrassment and loneliness can be detected throughout the poem. The brief relationship of the two people is very tense.
The fact that there is no rhyme helps to emphasise the lack of unity between the man and woman in the poem.
There is a good example with the ‘c’ of ‘cane creaked’. This emphasises the way the separate cane parts of the brush are connected.
Sibilance [repetition of ‘s’ sound]
Note how the ‘s’ sounds in the fourth stanza convey the quietness of the house. The word ‘hush’ adds to the effect. ‘Hush’ is an example of onomatopoeia [sound imitating meaning].