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Short poem

George Meredith (1828-1909)

Modern Love: XXII

              1What may the woman labour to confess?
              2There is about her mouth a nervous twitch.
              3'Tis something to be told, or hidden:--which?
              4I get a glimpse of hell in this mild guess.
              5She has desires of touch, as if to feel
              6That all the household things are things she knew.
              7She stops before the glass. What sight in view?
              8A face that seems the latest to reveal!
              9For she turns from it hastily, and tossed
            10Irresolute, steals shadow-like to where
            11I stand; and wavering pale before me there,
            12Her tears fall still as oak-leaves after frost.
            13She will not speak. I will not ask. We are
            14League-sundered by the silent gulf between.
            15Yon burly lovers on the village green,
            16Yours is a lower, and a happier star!


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 3.294.
Recent editing: 2:2002/1/30

Rhyme: abbacddceffeghhg

Other poems by George Meredith