Analysis of ‘Leaving the Tate’ by Fleur Adcock

Leaving the Tate

‘Leaving the Tate’ was the result of a commission set by the Tate Gallery and this was in connection with a competition they had held. Fleur Adcock, the poet was one of the judges. She was asked to write a poem about any painting in the gallery or about the gallery in general.  Fleur writes “So I decided to write about something I had often felt about art galleries, that when you come out your vision is different, you see things differently from when you went in. I called it ‘Leaving the Tate’.”

About the Poet

Kareen Fleur Adcock, born on February 10, 1934, in Papakura, New Zealand was known as New Zealand-born British poet. She was known for her calm lyrics and she wrote about her experiences and about places. She worked as commentator on poetry for the British Broadcasting Corporation. She translated Medieval Latin and contemporary Romanian poetry. She edited many works like The Oxford Book of Contemporary New Zealand Poetry (1982), The Oxford Book of Creatures (1995).


Fleur Adcock had to write a poem about the gallery but the resultant ‘Leaving the Tate’ was completely different. As she came out of the Tate Gallery with the postcards of many pictures and images of many paintings in her head, she pauses on the steps and looks across the river to see a magnificent canvas. The buildings, the ‘brown water’ and the sky are so beautiful that she wonders who painted it. Was it Constable or Crome she wonders? But the pictures were more ‘brilliant’ and ‘ecstatic’ than their works. The blue sky with the white clouds looked like ‘a madly pure Pre-Raphaelite sky’. She says aside that this was the scene at that time and that there would be different scenes on another day.

The poet’s gazes to lower right and she sees seagull, office blocks and a Georgian terrace. On the left were trees with seeds, brick building, red bus, lamp post and so on. She is perplexed that she had not noticed these outside pictures till she had a look at the indoor pictures. The outdoor images were marching out in front and it is up to the viewer to focus on what he or she wants to see. The viewer can zoom in or zoom out and see the pictures.

Art multiplies itself.

Art’s whatever you choose to frame.

The poet ends the poem saying that the reader can be the artist when they appreciate the art in their everyday lives and all they need to do is to be conscious of what they view.


‘Leaving the Tate’ is a poem with thirty six lines divided into nine stanzas, each with four lines. There is no specific rhyme; the length of the lines in each stanza is almost the same. The poem is about nature’s paintings and therefore the imagery is very strong in this poem. The enjambment used all through the poem makes it read like a narrative and the narrative is in second person.  Alliteration, repetition of words starting with the same letter, is seen in a few lines in this poem. Some of them are

bright buildings

bobbled with seeds, and that brick building

Fleur Adcock had said about this poem- “It wasn’t until I got to the end of that poem that I realised I thought “art’s whatever you choose to frame”. I hadn’t been deliberately leading up to it but somehow it arose out of what had gone before, slightly to my surprise.”