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Short poem

George Meredith (1828-1909)

Modern Love: I

              1By this he knew she wept with waking eyes:
              2That, at his hand's light quiver by her head,
              3The strange low sobs that shook their common bed
              4Were called into her with a sharp surprise,
              5And strangled mute, like little gaping snakes,
              6Dreadfully venomous to him. She lay
              7Stone-still, and the long darkness flowed away
              8With muffled pulses. Then, as midnight makes
              9Her giant heart of Memory and Tears
            10Drink the pale drug of silence, and so beat
            11Sleep's heavy measure, they from head to feet
            12Were moveless, looking through their dead black years,
            13By vain regret scrawled over the blank wall.
            14Like sculptured effigies they might be seen
            15Upon their marriage-tomb, the sword between;
            16Each wishing for the sword that severs all.


1] This narrative sequence of fifty sixteen-line "sonnets" probably has its roots in the unhappy history of Meredith's unsuccessful marriage to his first wife, Mary Ellen Nicolls, Peacock's widowed daughter, who had been the inspiration for Love in the Valley. The great novel, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel (1859), tells the same story.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: George Meredith, Modern Love, and Poems of the English Roadside, with poems and ballads (London: Chapman and Hall, 1862). end M474 M63 1862 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
First publication date: 1862
RPO poem editor: H. Kerpneck
RP edition: 3RP 3.293.
Recent editing: 2:2002/1/30

Rhyme: abbacddceffeghhg

Other poems by George Meredith