Charlotte Mew's 'The Farmer's Bride'

This poem is taken from ‘Modern Women Poets’ edited by Deryn Rees-Jones (Bloodaxe 2005). It’s an excellent anthology, as is the companion volume of analysis, ‘Consorting with Angels’.

I know very little about Charlotte Mew (1869-1928) despite my attempts to learn more. But I admire this poem because it creates the Farmer’s Bride through the incomprehension of the farmer. A modern writer would probably be more stident, condemn the farmer as an animal, and bore the reader.

But Mew suggests his incomprehension is genuine. His feeling that something unnatural is happening is grounded in his version of what is natural which is reflected in the animals and changing seasons around him. The poem both accepts this and criticises it as limited.

The poem allows the reader to sympathise with both characters.

This makes it far more interesting, and thought provoking, than something which beats the reader with slogans.

Bruce Dawe's 'And a Good Friday Was Had By All'

This is taken from Bruce Dawe’s ‘Sometimes Gladness’ a book I’d recommend to anyone.

When I first came to Australia, I knew nothing about a thing called ‘Australian Poetry’. But as an English teacher of English dropped into an Australian high school mid semester I discovered I was supposed to be teaching a unit on Australian Poetry. I raided the school’s stack of poetry books and took them home and read them with a desperation tinged with panic. This poem was the first one I found that I admired.

You could spend a lot of time turning this poem over to consider how you as reader are meant to react to the speaker. He is a soldier doing his job. On this particular Friday his job is to crucify people: ‘Nothing personal you understand….’. or what the title implies about all the people mentioned in the poem.

'Ulysses' by Alfred Lord Tennyson

This is one of the great dramatic monolgues in English. It’s easy to be carried along by the speaker’s undimmed enthusiasm for exploration (mental or physical) and his reluctance to give into old age. The last two lines are justly famous. But in this poem, as in the best of Browning’s, what is being said is undercut by how it is said. If you pay attention, the poem is having its cake and eating it; admiring the exuberant old explorer, while allowing you to see his arrogance and selfishness.