The Farmer’s Bride- Mew What does this image suggest about how farming has changed? Mini Starter Discuss your reactions to this image in pairs and consider the questions posed… What does this image suggest about modern farming? Consider multiple interpretations of the image. Should: Explore and consider multiple interpretations of the poem. (AO1/AO2) Could: Analyse the language, form and structure of the poem. (AO2) Must: Understand and be able to thoughtfully explain the meaning and main themes of the poem. (AO1)
Context Charlotte Mew’s life (1869-1928) was full of sadness and tragedy. There was mental illness in her family, and two of her six brothers and sisters spent their lives in an asylum. Three others died young. She wrote poetry and stories in which death, mental illness and loneliness are common themes. Although her work was admired by important writers such as Hardy, Sassoon and Woolf, she was not very popular in her lifetime, and remained very poor. After the death of her last remaining sibling, she took her own life. Her character can perhaps be summed up by her reply to the question ‘Are you Charlotte Mew?’ She replied ‘I am sorry to that I am’.
The Farmer Disturbed Frustrated Plain-Speaking Impatient Thoughtless Rough Perplexed Unimaginative Amazed Worried How would you describe the farmer? Select 3 of the words above or devise your own and find a suitable quotation to support each adjective. Sad Kind
What is the poem about? A farmer has been married for three years but this bride is frightened of him and other men. In the poem he tells the story of how the relationship went wrong. He doesn’t question whether he has any responsibility for his wife’s fear. He finds her rejection of him almost unbearable, but he expresses his thoughts in a fairly matter-of-fact way. He desires his wife, and by the end it seems he may be struggling to resist taking her by force.
Feelings and Attitudes He wants to have a sexual relationship with her and have children, but she’s unwilling and uncommunicative. The farmer is clearly attracted to his wife. This is expressed both in the imagery he uses to describe her and the way he breaks down at the end of the poem. The farmer’s wife is clearly afraid. There is also a sense of foreboding - the farmer is struggling to control his desire foe her, and there is little to suggest that there will be a happy ending for the married couple.
Your personal response • How far do you blame the farmer for his wife’s behaviour? • How does the poet use the different seasons to describe the relationship? • To what extent would you describe ‘the Farmer’s Bride’ as a love poem? Key Themes Desire, distance, nature… Compare the farmer’s physical desire with that of the speakers in ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ and ‘Love’s Philosophy’. You could also look at the emotional distance in ‘Neutral Tones’ and the physical distance in ‘Sonnet 29’.
Shows system of patriarchy (male authority over authority) – suggests she didn’t have much choice about their marriage. This is reflected in the title – it sounds like she belongs to him. Hints that the farmer had a practical and unromantic approach to marriage. Three summers since I chose a maid, Too young maybe—but more’s to do At harvest-time than bide and woo. When us was wed she turned afraid Of love and me and all things human; Like the shut of a winter’s day Her smile went out, and ’twasn’t a woman— More like a little frightened fay. One night, in the Fall, she runned away. She wasn’t afraid until after they were married – this could hint that he’s responsible for her fear in some way. Anticipates the comparisons to animals that follow. It’s a strong statement, but the source of this fear is a mystery. Dialect of the farmer – we can hear his voice, and it’s one he shares with his community. Simile shows how sudden this change was – winter days go dark very quickly.
Her fear is expressed physically, like a hunted animal – “scare” is rhymed with “hare”, which emphasises the comparison. Dialect of the farmer – we can hear his voice, and it’s one he shares with his community “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 out 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. Hunting imagery – suggests her terror The whole village seems to be involved – this adds to the sense that she’s being hunted. The rhyming couplet emphasises the decisive action of locking her away and makes it sound sinister.
The change to the present tense emphasises his resigned, baffled tone. She’s a fairly good housewife – she does what is expected of her in the relationship, apart from loving her husband. She’s linked with small prey animals to show her vulnerability She does the work about the house As well as most, but like a mouse: Happy enough to chat 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 women say that beasts in stall Look round like children at her call. I’ve hardly heard her speak at all. She is nearly silent and only speaks to animals. She sounds withdrawn and depressed. Rhyming triplet emphasises the narrator’s frustration at his wife’s behaviour. Simile shows that the farm animals trust her and look to her for care – may suggest he’s jealous of them.
Repeated use of sibilant sounds emphasises her link with nature. The irregularity of this short stanza could reflect the farmer’s growing agitation by this link and his un fulfilled desire for her. Links back to the imagery of the hunt – she still feels under threat. 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? Has connotations both of an unspoilt freedom and of a rejection of people. Rhetorical question – breaks his happier thoughts of her in springtime and takes him back to the winter scene.
Sad, lonely image – symbolises his sinking hope that she will ever come to him freely. Winter is used to suggest the decay and death of his hopes. 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 On 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! Christmas is about the birth of a child – they have no children because of her refusal of him.
Sounds sympathetic but also suggests that she’s still a virgin – a “maid” is a young, unmarried girl. He is aware of her physical closeness, adding to his frustration. 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! Animal-like descriptions show his desire for her – even though these qualities are also the source of his frustration. Internal rhyme of “brown” and “down” emphasises his desire and frustration Frantic-sounding repetition of the half-rhyme “her hair” – he’s breaking down and losing control.
Poem Dictionary Bide- wait Woo- try to win someone’s love Fay- a fairy Leveret- a young hare Rime- frost
Inference: The Farmer & His Bride • Apply your inference skills (reading between the lines) and annotate your poem with: • Information you can infer about the farmer. • Information you can infer about the farmer’s bride. • Challenge: • Consider how the presentation of the characters suggests the roles/attitudes of different genders during this era. How does Mew indicate aspects of the farmer’s character and feelings without describing them directly? ‘twasn’t a woman…she runned away’ He speaks in a rural dialect, implying that he is a plain working man.
ANALYSING YOUR POEM Voice Tone Ballad Sonnet Free verse Dramatic monologue Symbolism Alliteration Assonance Juxtaposition Oxymoron S.M.I.L.E Simile Extended Metaphor Personification Rhyming Couplet Enjambment Emotive Language Repetition
Example Answer: Is it any good? Mew uses words like ‘runned’ and ‘her be’ to copy the speech of country people, which gives a sense of place and time, but she doesn’t adhere to it. As the poem progresses she is writing in more poetic ways with phrases like ‘all in a shiver and a stare’. There is a regular pattern to the stanza but she varies it for effect, in line 5 where the line is longer and seems to echo the chase over the uneven countryside. This is emphasised by the use of prepositions ‘over up along across down’ tumbling over each other. When Mew describes the girl (through the farmer’s eyes), she is seen like an animal (perhaps scared or trapped) with her ‘wide brown stare’ and she is hunted down and then imprisoned like an animal. There is no mention, despite the writer being female, of her feelings- but if she was frightened and hesitant before, she will be more so now!
Example Answer: Is it any good? AO1: Read, understand and respond to texts. Students should be able to: • maintain a critical style and develop an informed personal response. • use textual references, including quotations, to support and illustrate interpretations. AO2: Analyse the language, form and structure used by a writer to create meanings and effects, using relevant subject terminology where appropriate. AO3: Show understanding of the relationships between texts and the contexts in which they were written. Mew uses words like ‘runned’ and ‘her be’ to copy the speech of country people, which gives a sense of place and time, but she doesn’t adhere to it. As the poem progresses she is writing in more poetic ways with phrases like ‘all in a shiver and a stare’. There is a regular pattern to the stanza but she varies it for effect, in line 5 where the line is longer and seems to echo the chase over the uneven countryside. This is emphasised by the use of prepositions ‘over up along across down’ tumbling over each other. When Mew describes the girl (through the farmer’s eyes), she is seen like an animal (perhaps scared or trapped) with her ‘wide brown stare’ and she is hunted down and then imprisoned like an animal. There is no mention, despite the writer being female, of her feelings- but if she was frightened and hesitant before, she will be more so now!
Reflection: SMILE Paragraph • This suggests… • This infers… The poet was trying to convey • The use of the word… implies that… • The writer wanted to suggest… • The connotations of this word are… Word Bank • Point: Topic sentence with an adjective. • Evidence: Quotation- try to embed it in the sentence. • Explain: Select a keyword- why does it stand out? What is the effect on the reader? • Language Analysis- Analyse what the word suggests & how it links back to the adjective.