Charlotte Mary Mew
Biography of Charlotte Mary Mew
Charlotte Mary Mew was an English poet, whose work spans the cusp between Victorian poetry and Modernism.
She was born in Bloomsbury, London the daughter of the architect Frederick Mew, who designed Hampstead town hall. Her father died in 1898 without making adequate provision for his family; two of her siblings suffered from mental illness, and were committed to institutions, and three others died in early childhood leaving Charlotte, her mother and her sister, Anne. Charlotte and Anne made a pact never to marry for fear of passing on insanity to their children. (One author calls Charlotte "chastely lesbian".)
In 1894, Mew succeeded in getting a short story into The Yellow Book, but wrote very little poetry at this time. Her first collection of poetry, The Farmer's Bride, was published in 1916, in chapbook format, by the Poetry Bookshop; in the USA, it was entitled Saturday Market and published in 1921. It earned her the admiration of Sydney Cockerell.
Her poems are varied: some of them (such as 'Madeleine in Church') are passionate discussions of faith and the possibility of belief in God; others are proto-modernist in form and atmosphere ('In Nunhead Cemetery'). Mew gained the patronage of several literary figures, notably Thomas Hardy, who called her the best woman poet of her day, Virginia Woolf, who said she was 'very good and quite unlike anyone else', and Siegfried Sassoon. She obtained a small Civil List pension with the aid of Cockerell, Hardy, John Masefield and Walter De La Mare. This helped ease her financial difficulties.
After the death of her sister, she descended into a deep depression, and was admitted to a nursing home where she eventually committed suicide by drinking Lysol.
Mew is buried in the northern part of Hampstead Cemetery, London NW6.
Charlotte Mary Mew's Works:
"Passed" The Yellow Book, Volume 2 (1894).
The Cenotaph (1919)
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Charlotte Mary Mew Poems
I So Liked Spring
I so liked Spring last year Because you were here;- The thrushes too- Because it was these you so liked to hear-
Toll no bell for me, dear Father dear Mother, Waste no sighs; There are my sisters, there is my little brother Who plays in the place called Paradise,
My Heart is Lame
My heart is lame with running after yours so fast Such a long way, Shall we walk slowly home, looking at all the things we passed Perhaps to-day?
On the Road to the Sea
We passed each other, turned and stopped for half an hour, then went our way, I who make other women smile did not make you-- But no man can move mountains in a day. So this hard thing is yet to do.
Remember me and smile, as smiling too, I have remembered things that went their way-- The dolls with which I grew too wise to play-- Or over-wise--kissed, as children do,
The Farmer's Bride
Three summers since I chose a maid, Too young maybe-but more's to do At harvest-time that a bide and woo. When us was wed she turned afraid
A Quoi Bon Dire
Seventeen years ago you said Something that sounded like Good-bye; And everybody thinks that you are dead, But I.
The Trees Are Down
and he cried with a loud voice: Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees - Revelation They are cutting down the great plane-trees at the end of the gardens.
Not yet will those measureless fields be green again Where only yesterday the wild sweet blood of wonderful youth was shed; There is a grave whose earth must hold too long, too deep a stain, Though for ever over it we may speak as proudly as we may tread.
Sometimes I know the way You walk, up over the bay; It is a wind from that far sea That blows the fragrance of your hair to me.
In The Fields
Lord when I look at lovely things which pass, Under old trees the shadow of young leaves Dancing to please the wind along the grass, Or the gold stillness of the August sun on the August sheaves;
From a Window
Up here, with June, the sycamore throws Across the window a whispering screen; I shall miss the sycamore more I suppose, Than anything else on this earth that is out in green.
Tide be runnin' the great world over: 'Twas only last June month I mind that we Was thinkin' the toss and the call in the breast of the lover So everlastin' as the sea.
Lend me, a little while, the key That locks your heavy heart, and I'll give you back-- Rarer than books and ribbons and beads bright to see, This little Key of Dreams out of my pack.
The Farmer's Bride
Three summers since I chose a maid,
Too young maybe-but more's to do
At harvest-time that a bide and woo.
When us was wed she turned afraid
Of love and me and all things human;
Like the shut of winter's day
Her smile went out, and `twadn't a woman-
More like a little frightened fay.
One night, in the Fall, she runned away.