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.