Saturday, 23 February 2008

Charlotte Mew, poet - part 2

Charlotte Mew published just one collection of poetry during her life; in 1916 a chapbook collection of 16 poems, 'The Farmer's Bride'. A collection of 25 poems was published posthumously.
The title poem from 'The Farmer's Bride', tells the tale of an inarticulate farmer who bemoans the fact that his beautiful young bride will have nothing to do with him. Charlotte Mew liked to write poetry from the point of view of a man. And she could certainly get away from the sentimental platitudes of her predecessors - Elizabeth Barrett Browning & co. - when she set her mind to it. The following is almost Lawrencian in style and flavour with its ear for dialect and its rustic turn of phrase.

The Farmer's Bride

Three summers since I chose a maid,
Too young maybe - but more's to do
At harvest-time than a bide and woo.
When us was wed she turned afraid
Of love and me and all things human;
Like the shut of winter's day
Her smile went out, and 'twadn't a woman -
More like a little frightened fay.
One night, in the Fall, she runned away.

"Out 'mong the sheep, her be," they said,
Should properly have been abed;
But sure enough she wadn't there
Lying awake with her wide brown stare.
So over seven-acre field and up-along across the down
We chased her, flying like a hare
Before our lanterns. To Church-Town
All in a shiver and a scare
We caught her, fetched her home at last
And turned the key upon her, fast.

She does the work about the house
As well as most, but like a mouse:
Happy enough to cheat and play
With birds and rabbits and such as they,
So long as men-folk keep away
"Not near, not near!" her eyes beseech
When one of us comes within reach.
The woman say that beasts in stall
Look round like children at her call.
I've hardly heard her speak at all.
Shy as a leveret, swift as he,
Straight and slight as a young larch tree,
Sweet as the first wild violets, she,
To her wild self. But what to me?

The short days shorten and the oaks are brown,
The blue smoke rises to the low grey sky,
One leaf in the still air falls slowly down,
A magpie's spotted feathers lie
An the black earth spread white with rime,
The berries redden-up to Christmas-time.
What's Christmas-time without there be
Some other in the house than we!

She sleeps up in the attic there
Alone, poor maid. 'Tis but a stair
Betwixt us. Oh! my God! the down
The soft young down of her, the brown,
The brown of her - her eyes, her hair, her hair!

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