Song for Pythagoras

By Dannie Abse 1923–2014 Dannie Abse
White coat and purple coat
   a sleeve from both he sews.
That white is always stained with blood,   
   that purple by the rose.

And phantom rose and blood most real   
   compose a hybrid style;
white coat and purple coat
   few men can reconcile.

White coat and purple coat
   can each be worn in turn
but in the white a man will freeze
   and in the purple burn.

Dannie Abse, “Song for Pythagoras” from New and Collected Poems, published by Hutchinson. Used by permission of The Random House Group Limited,

Source: White Coat Purple Coat: Collected Poems 1948-1988 (1994)

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Poet Dannie Abse 1923–2014


Subjects Poetry & Poets, Arts & Sciences, Philosophy

Poetic Terms Common Measure, Metaphor

 Dannie  Abse


The title of Dannie Abse’s collected poems, White Coat, Purple Coat (1989), refers to his lifelong professions of physician and poet. Of these careers, Abse has stated, “I like to think I’m a poet and Medicine my serious hobby.”

Considered one of the most important Welsh writers of the past century, Abse was born in Cardiff, Wales, to non-Welsh-speaking parents, but lived mostly in London. His poetry collections include . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Poetry & Poets, Arts & Sciences, Philosophy


Poetic Terms Common Measure, Metaphor

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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