The poem tells the story of a farmer who marries a maid and refers to their early experience of marriage. She appears to be badly affected by the experience of marriage and becomes withdrawn and uncommunicative. She attempts to run away and is found. The husband longs for her only for her to reject him.
Ideas and Themes:
- Tells story of how marriage failed in first 2 stanzas but then discusses how his wife is now and how he feels towards her, his sadness and desire
- Dramatic monologue in iambic tetrameter with a varying rhyme scheme.
- This gives a strong rhythm that drives the narrative forward.
- Written entirely in farmers point of view, no voice from wife
- “I chose a maid”- shows a system of patriarchy, men over women. This suggests she didn’t have any choice in the marriage and further shown in the title. She belongs to him
- “We chased her flying like a hare”: Hunting imagery suggests she is afraid and her terror
- “All in a shiver and a scare”: Her fear is expressed physically like a hunted animal. “scare” rhymes with “hare” which emphasizes the comparison
- “Home at last, key upon her fast”: Rhyming couplet shows decisive action of locking her away and makes it sound more sinister
- “Happy enough to chat to birds and rabbits”: She only talks to animals suggesting mental instability and depression
- “Beasts in stall, Look round like children at her call, I’ve hardly seen her speak at all” Powerful line suggests animals are willing to be looked after by her so the farmer is possibly jealous. He hasn’t heard her speak which shows how far apart they are. The way the “I’ve” is in italics show how he thinks of himself as more important and feels the need for his opinion to be spoken and heard above all. The rhyming triplet emphasizes frustration.
- “Shy as a leveret” shows she is still being hunted
- “S..Swift…Straight…Sweet…She” constant use of sibilance shows a link with nature. Irregularity in stanza shows frustration with his desire not being fulfilled.
- “What’s Christmas time… Some other in the house than we!” Christmas is about the birth of a child but they have no kids because of her refusal
- “her hair, her hair, her hair!” constant repetition shows he’s breaking down