#22 “The Farmer’s Bride” (Charlotte Mew)

The next two poems in the Countdown are the most obscure, yet the high ranking I give them attests to my desire to make them less obscure. In Charlotte Mew’s “The Farmer’s Bride”, a farmer, quite a bit older than his bride, tells the story of their deadlocked marriage. He speaks in Mew’s version of a south-of-England dialect, probably close to that of Mew’s family home on the Isle of Wight.

The story is easily paraphrased. Marriage traumatizes the young title character. Whether she and the speaker have consummated their marriage is left deliberately unclear; what matters is that they’re celibate now. No explanation for her aversion to the speaker is ever given. And we must remember that all we know about the bride and their marriage comes via her husband. He claims that his wife treats all men with revulsion. But might it be just him that’s the problem?

“The Farmer’s Bride” is notable for its lushness of language. Indeed, one possible criticism is that the farmer/speaker, uneducated and not chock-full of people skills, expresses himself in the most gorgeous pattern of sounds that English is capable of. However, this is poetry. You want real life, go to the mall.

Mew’s poem uses the “free-rhyming” form we have seen in several Countdown poems, with shorter passages in more regular rhyming verse. Mew uses to beautiful effect the technique of the immediately repeated word (“Christmas,” “down,” “brown”). Like all great “dramatic monologues,” “The Farmer’s Bride” is more notable for what it leaves to our imaginations than for what it tells.

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18 responses to “#22 “The Farmer’s Bride” (Charlotte Mew)

  1. I think that this was probably an arranged marriage of some sort. The man has chosen his wife and she doesn’t really have a choice but to go and be a married woman/young lady(“and ‘twasn’t a woman”). She might have been a victim of incest (“Lying awake with her wide brown stare”) and that is why she did not respond well to being married or she simply might have not been quite too happy with the man that had chosen her. Maybe she felt he was much too old for her and would have liked a younger man. Maybe it wasn’t her prince charming. By running away she might have been able to escape this uncomfortable and unhappy situation. Unfortunately, she was brought back but she continued to keep to herself. Sometimes when one is in an unhappy situation, take an unhappily married couple that stays together for the sake of the children. The sleep in separate bedrooms sometimes and pretend to be happy or sometimes don’t hide the fact that they are miserable and pretty much have their own lives yet live in the same household. Sometimes the kids pick up on it and sometimes they don’t. It depends on their ages. In this case though, there were no children to worry about and pretend to be a happy couple. Sleeping in separate bedrooms, “she sleeps up in the attic there.” The man is obviously longing for her but she will not give in. This makes him long for her even more.

  2. I love this poem because it is reality; meaning there are people who face the same situation faced by both the farmer and his wife. I read this poem, I automatically got the feeling that the farmer was abusive to his young bride. I feel that way because it would explain why she was always afraid of him. I don’t feel sympathy for the farmer because I feel like he should have known better; marrying a young girl with the purpose of becoming basically his slave. Like it was said in class, I also think of the movie “Color Purple” when reading this poem because they’re similar- same setting, same tone. The fact that the young bride disliked men is probably because men had always represented negativity in her life and also maybe because she’s been taken advantage of by men. I don’t know if it was said earlier but I get the feeling that the speaker- farmer- is an African American most likely from the south because of the speakers style of speaking.

  3. The discussion in class seems to fall in line with my analysis of the poem. There was an arranged marriage of a farmer and a young lady who “’twasn’t a woman.” It seems to me that initially, the farmer married her for her ability to work, as he “chose a maid,” but he quickly grew very fond of her, but she did not feel the same way. In fact, she was frightened by the farmer (perhaps he was physically violent towards her), so much that she “runned away.” She did not want to be married to him, but she had no choice. The farmer caught her, and “fetched her home at last.” She sleeps alone in the attic, yet the farmer still longs for her, even more so than when they first wed.

  4. firewaterboi321

    Mew uses an interesting choice of “voice” in this piece by writing from the perspective of the Farmer. He’s obviously a “bumpkin” in by the revelation of his perception of the “wife’s” gendered role, yet the command of language is expert and beautiful. This artistic form of verbal expression is a contrast to the idea of a bumpkin. Mew portrays the Wife almost as if she is a creature of nature. She is more at home out of the house and among animals in the wild. The wife herself is almost a personification of a type of innocence that could be seen as almost virginal. She reminds me of the Greek goddess Artemis in the sense that she is unwilling to be “captured” and “enslaved” by the touch of a man. The Wife and Artemis share a strange similarity in this respect. The difference between them is the Wife-Huntress is kept within a cage of a loveless marriage. Artemis is free. Was Charlotte Mew trying to describe the mentality of the lower-class males by writing this poem? Is she merely attempting to illuminate the type of “bondage” that arranged marriage produced during her time? It seems the commentary she’s making through the voice of the Farmer is a critical analysis of the socialization of women during her time. Was she saying that the patriarchal society she lived in (and which we still live in today) was the “gilded cage” that women should fear?

  5. You can gather from this poem that this was in fact an arranged marriage, and given the time in which it was written it was more of the norm for a man to choose his wife, along with his ideals about what a wife is for. In class the girl was getting all the sympathy and the farmer was seen as the bad guy, but I don’t really think it’s that black and white. People point out “‘twasn’t a woman” as an indicator of age but it seems more to me to describe her state along with the next line about her being a “frightened fay”. Many people in class kept suggesting that because of her age she wasn’t ready for marriage, but I think this woman may just not have been ready for marriage period. The farmer’s line about the girl becoming afraid “of love and me and all things human” shows that the marriage traumatized her so now she denies human contact. She barely speaks to him, obviously doesn’t show affection towards him, just does her chores and keeps to herself. To me this poem seems more like his lament of unrequited love, not just the desire for a wife to do chores and bear his children.

  6. Like the others I think this was arranged marriage and it is not at all who she wanted to marry everything left her, her smile the sparkle in her eyes she just lay awake at night. He may be to old for her and she just can not see her self with someone that old, maybe he is mean to her and treats her as a farm hand and not as his wife. It is sad that you marry someone because they tell you to marry him and not for love, and respect for that person. That you let your self die from the inside out because she does not like who she is with. There are always two sides to the story, maybe she does not think that she treats him bad that she does everything that a wife is to do. That can be the only way that she knows how to treat a man or husband. He may not meet her standards he does not speak very well. People have different views of who they should be with and nobody is perfect. If she lies awake at night and does not want him to touch her, there could be some things that he could work on.

  7. In class, we were discussing what our view of the husband in this poem was. Right away it was easy to assume that husband caused his wife to act in the manner that she does. In the poem, the farmesr wife seems as if she was thrown into a marriage she wanted nothing to do with. However, after reading through this story it is evident that although he did not treat her as well as she would have liked, he still cared about her. He begins to describe how troubled his world is without her loving him physically and emotionally. For instance he explains, “The short days shorten and the oaks are brown..,” it is as if he can not continue living and growing without her. Therefore, although he is not an outstanding husband, no one is perfect. This poem just shows that he is unwilling to give up on her and the love that he is hoping to gain from her someday.

  8. As mentioned Charlotte Mew’s poem “The Farmer’s Bride” is very similar to the book “Color Purple” by Alice Walker. If you saw the movie or read the book you will see the similarity. I wonder if the book was inspired by the poem. As I read the poem I pictured a scene from the movie Color Purple. The scene of a young girl getting married in the church and as she turns around and make playful faces at her sister while she is with her soon to be husband at the alter. Getting married for her may not have been taken serious until she was at home with the kids and cleaning house to realize this is not fun and games. I can see her being frightened with the fact her husband is a man that can be her father doing things that are suppose to happen with her mother and not her. Being placed in a woman’s role with child’s mind will make any child run or want to run away. She is happy when she is outside because that is what children like to do, they like to run and play outside. This marriage that was arranged did not allow this young girl to mature into womanhood. Her innocence was taken away to fulfill someone else’s desire or shared responsibility. At the end of the poem it appears to me that he desires to have an actual relationship with his young bride that was suppose to be more of a maid. Of all the poems for this semester I have reached one that I did not like. This poem is sad to me because it involves a young girl forced into marriage with her childhood taken away.

  9. When I began reading the poem I had not realized the author was a woman. Once I learned this it really made me question my previous view about the speaker of the poem and the message the author was trying to portray. I think it may be a social criticism on the institution of marriage. For so long men chose their women and I think that active pursuit for a mate is still largely a job of males. During this era in this social setting work dominates and takes precedence and not much time is left for mates to lolly gag and pursue joviality. The moments which a couple could spend time together. This poem may be about a whole social structure and the role of women in this society.

  10. This is a really good poem in my opinion and has become one of my favorites. I believe that it may be because it reads so much like a novel. As mentioned by many of my classmates and also in class, it tells the story of what we believe to be an arranged marriage. It is amazing the similarities to this poem and the book “The Color Purple”. Reading the poem it becomes clear how much the two stories mirror each other, with the difference being that the young girl in the Color Purple doesn’t run away.
    The question was asked in class if there is sympathy for the man in the poem. My answer would be a resounding NO. My reasoning is twofold. First, he has taken away the life and innocence of a young girl so that he can be satisfied. I keep thinking back to the part in the poem where the young girl ran away and he (and apparently others) hunted the girl down, caught her and then LOCKED her up like an animal.
    The second reason that I don’t have sympathy for the man is because he makes it seem like he’s a victim in all of this. Crying out to God because she has no desire for him.
    As sad as this poem is, it is truly a work of art. It puts you there. You feel for the young girl and how frightened she must have been. How miserable her life was yet she knew she could not leave. It’s funny how this is being told from the man’s point of view, but all I think about is the young girl. Clearly this poem stands out as one of my favorites.

  11. “The Farmer’s Bride” reminds me of how things were once upon a time. The old-fashioned traditions come to my mind. A man chooses his wife by her capability to help around the farm, especially at “harvest time”. The idea I get from the poem is that the bride is a young girl who gets chosen for marriage with a much older man than her. Her happiness went away once they wed and she became afraid of him. It could be that she was in love with someone else, someone her age, but couldn’t be with him because of this “arrangement”. Maybe she envisioned her life in a different way and when she was wed to this farmer, her hopes and dreams were crushed, so she ran away. Sadly, the farmer was able to find her and lock her up in his house. As someone mentioned above, she might be portrayed as one of the animals in the poem, since she is locked in and has no freedom of her own. Although I get a sense of solitude when talking about her, I also feel the same way about the farmer. He feels lonely and desperate to be in the same house, yet share no intimacy with her. They both are lonesome because of different reasons and we can ascertain this from the way he speaks about her and himself. It almost seems as if he is confessing to something he has done, feels bad for the sufferer, and at the same time, for himself.

  12. This poem stuck out to me because it is easy to comprehend and it also is powerful. I sympathize with this lady because her childhood seems to have been taken. She has been chosen to assist a man, I assume a farmer, with harvesting or chores “about the house”. She seems very innocent and has lots of love to give, however none to men. I think the man in this poem chose her based on this observation. I also like this poem because it is very representative of marriage now days. I think a large percentage of people whom are married are unhappy. Instead of literally being forced to stay at home and endure they are forced due to children or fear. The fear of being alone or the fear of people talking. Our society is largely based on the institution of marriage and if you fall outside the societal norms it looks bad. Sadly this women wasn’t given an option to cease her relationship with the man. Instead she quietly does her work and plays with animals. While she fears the company of men by saying: “Not near, Not near”. Which leads me to believe she has experienced some sort of molestation. Again I deeply sympathize with her or anyone whom is forced to live unhappily.

  13. andreamcginley

    I was sad for both parties in this poem. At first I was sympathizing with the young girl because it was portrayed that she was not that into the union with the farmer. In the first stanza the lines that say, “When us was wed she turned afraid Of love and me and all things human” makes me wonder if the young girl was abused in by some person. I thought this because not only are young girls typically chatty and outgoing towards everything, but also young people in general are curious of all of their surroundings. The poem depicted this girl as a person who is very timid and obviously not ready for the life of a wife because for someone to run away into the wild as she had done is quite desperate. However when the poem turns into the farmer’s thoughts it just became a much sadder poem. The farmer is tormented by something he wants badly but cannot have which is stated in the last stanza. All around this poem reminds me of a magnet when a person really wants to put the opposite ends together and can try with all of his or her might, but the two ends will never meet due to the laws of nature. These two people it seemed were forced together but despite all of the efforts put into the relationship the bride so to speak will never be able to meet the farmer with the desire that he has for her. This poem also reminds me of the “Classroom in the Slum” because the children are desperate for some redemption on the disease that they have been handed but cannot make it through with what they have been handed.

  14. spontaneous12

    The Farmer’s Bride

    In the beginning of this poem, the speaker has sensed a lot of things about his mate that weren’t there to begin with. This is evident because the poem reads, “Her smile went out, and ‘twasn’t a woman- more like a little frightened fay”. His bride had run away from him so what is the farmer to do in this type of situation? First, we have to figure out why is she scared and why would she run away? Of course he had done something to abandon her trust. It’s just unnatural for a woman to be afraid of good love and protection. So the poem implies that she had been mistreated. “We caught her, fetched her home at last and turned the key upon her fast. Obviously there was another suspect involved as the quote suggests that he was not alone in his scheming acts. “She does the work about the house, as well as most, but like a mouse:” Women who have been battered usually are afraid to talk about it and they have peculiar relationships with their husbands. She is described as being shy and sweet but also described as wild by the speaker. She could not stand to be in the presence of a male. Her friends became preferably birds and rabbits because she had no one to turn to but the animals. The animals weren’t hideous men whose ideas perceived them to be aggressive rapists. Animals are somewhat loving and playful and she was the same to them in return. The poem also suggests that she is happy “enough” to play with them. Also like saying she was barely hanging in there and her happiness was rather shallow. The speaker is delighted with the fact that she is present with him. He is able to do as he pleases while she is forced to sleep alone and is involved with sexual encounters with a strange man. At the end of the poem, the speaker is perverse in the way he sees her right before he is ready to molest. The brown of her-her eyes, her hair! Her hair! He is exclaimed with the idea of having her to “sympathize” for when in actuality his eyes continued to be rich with perverted fantasies.

  15. This was an interesting poem because yes, this is real life… its as real as it gets. My parents went got married through an arranged marriage, they are happy but I also know quite a lot of other couples that have been through an arranged marriage and are very unhappy in it and because of society and family.
    I agree with tigges21, its not like she’s probably not being blackmailed to stay there, most of the time it’s due to children. And that even people in other marriages can be unhappy.
    Sometimes people work hard at a relationship and it just doesn’t work others don’t try hard enough if things aren’t working between two.
    This poem definitely caught my attention with how it was written!

  16. “The Farmers Bride” by Charlotte Mew is a surprising poem. It seems to pertain to arranged marriage and love not reciprocated. It has a very real sense to it, and the feelings are expressed very well. The idea of a farmer marrying a woman just so he can be of service to him is pretty funny. The personality of the farmer is the most interesting part about this poem. The bride should have never allowed herself to get sucked into a marriage with someone they didn’t love. Overall this poem was OK, but the story definitely gave me a good laugh.

  17. I think that this was an arranged marraige like they did back in the olden days. They use to go out and find people’s husband and wives for them. I think the farmer must have been abusive to the woman. It seems as if she had a fear of this man. I dont think these type of marriages last very long. This poem expresses anger to mr because of the way the farmer treated his wife. The author did a good job in painting a picture of how we would invision the poem.

  18. From DeCarlo Coleman: “In The farmer’s bride poem I felt so bad for the young girl who was forced to live her life based on someone else’s need. In the first stanza the speaker says,” When us was wed she turned afraid of love and me and all things human,” I can totally understand why the young girl felt the way she did. To be forced to marry someone whom you will share the rest of your life with can be devastating. There is no way for her to ever truly express a genuine loving part of herself due to the resentment and unhappiness she is dealing with everyday. To me her situation is almost like slavery in a sense. Her husband only wants her to please him by doing work that he feels he shouldn’t have to do. I don’t feel that there will ever be happiness for either of them because she doesn’t want to be with him and I’m sure he would rather have a woman that is affectionate towards him.”

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