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BHCS The Farmer's Bride

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Tom Allen

on 5 February 2015

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Transcript of BHCS The Farmer's Bride

Overall Interpretation
The Poem is about a farmer who
married a young bride three
years earlier.
In the poem we learn that the couple still haven't had a child by the fourth Christmas. Consequently, we realise the farmer has become desperate. Why might this be?
The Farmers Bride
This poem is all about the context and sending a message about gender discrimination. Mew cleverly shows how women were insignificant and viewed as possessions. It also shows how dysfunctional the marriage is due to the wife being so unhappy and timid. It is a comment on how the the way society views women leads to unhappiness, mistreatment and, possibly, violence.

By viewing the relationship from the perspective of the man we can see inside his mind and follow the decision-making process as he ends up going up the stairs to her room to claim his 'conjugal rights'. At no point does he appear unreasonable or out of control until the end. This way it would have far more impact than seeing it from the woman's 'less important' point of view and it avoids deliberate misunderstanding.
The poem is written from the
farmer's perspective, therefore
we receive a deep insight into how
the farmer truly feels concerning
his marriage.
Written in six stanzas, the poem takes us through the year, season by season. Why do it this way?
Charlotte Mew
Activity 1
Activity 3
After her sister's death in 1928 she became depressed, sadly she was admitted to a nursing home where she committed suicide.
Three Summers since I chose a maid,
Too young maybe – but more’s to do
At harvest-time than bide and woo.
When us was wed she turned afraid
Of love and me and all things human;
Like the shut of a winter’s day
Her smile went out, and ’twasn’t a woman –
More like a little frightened fay.
One night, in the Fall, she runned away.

Stanza One

‘Out ’mong the sheep, her be,’ they said,
Should properly have been abed;
But sure enough she wasn’t there
Lying awake with her wide brown stare.
So over seven-acre field and up-along across the down
We chased her, flying like a hare
Before our lanterns. To Church-Town
All in a shiver and a scare
We caught her, fetched her home at last
And turned the key upon her, fast.

She does the work about the house
As well as most, but like a mouse:
Happy enough to chat and play
With birds and rabbits and such as they,
So long as men-folk keep away.
‘Not near, not near!’ her eyes beseech
When one of us comes within reach.
The women say that beasts in stall
Look round like children at her call.
hardly heard her speak at all.

Shy as a leveret, swift as he,
Straight and slight as a young larch tree,
Sweet as the first wild violets, she,
To her wild self. But what to me?

Stanza Two
Stanza Three
The short days shorten and the oaks are brown,
The blue smoke rises to the low grey sky,
One leaf in the still air falls slowly down,
A magpie’s spotted feathers lie
On the black earth spread white with rime,
The berries redden up to Christmas-time.
What’s Christmas-time without there be
Some other in the house than we!

Autumn is incredibly important for farmers: does he want a wife to help? Why choose one then?
Instead of wife he says maid. Virgin? Servant? Both?
Doesn't have time to flatter or
compliment his wife, he just needs
a quick marriage as his main focus
is his farm. No time to waste. Marriage is a task to be done.
Women were expected to do anything their husbands wanted, if they disobeyed they would be shamed and not thought of as a woman.
Animal imagery is used a lot to describe her from here on.
We can clearly see how unhappy and desperate the wife is to get away from her husband, it's here we begin to empathise with her.
'we' indicates that the farmer
contacted other men (from the
village or workers on his farm) to help him search for his wife, which creates imagery similar to an animal hunt.
The bride is treated like an animal, as the farmer doesn't really know anything different- brought up to treat women like they are an accessory, not someone they love. A possession, like one of his livestock.
The bride is punished by being locked up like a prisoner as if she's one of his animals or is dangerous to him
Indicates they had to lock her up quickly as she was still trying to run. It's also a pun - 'stuck fast' meaning securely held.
She fulfills some of her role as a wife (note how it's 'work about the house'), unspoken is that this is all she does i.e. no sex
The wife is happy to talk to anyone else, it's men that she fears.
Why would she fear them?
'beseech' means beg so she is begging them to keep away with her eyes. How is this more powerful than her shouting or screaming?
How does this make the farmer seem? Sad? Are we supposed to pity him or is this just for information?
Beasts could represent the devil therefore the women of the village claim that the devil is at work with the wife. She's a witch!
Could this be a sign of jealousy? If so, what does it suggest about the farmer?
She sleeps up in the attic there.
Alone, poor maid. ’Tis but a stair
Betwixt us. Oh! my God! the down,
The soft young down of her, the brown,
The brown of her – her eyes, her hair, her hair!
This stanza stands out from the rest as it's a positive description of how lovely the wife is.
This stanza is written using sibilance which mimics the farmer's whispered appreciation for his wife.
This represents the fact that Christmas is a time of new birth yet without consummating the marriage they cannot have children. The farmer wants a child. The purpose of marriage? Farmer's aim is to make things grow, sow seeds etc.
The stanza continues on from the previous one to make you feel sorry for the farmer. He feels lonely even though there is someone else there with him; he doesn’t feel like he is emotionally involved or that the young bride even cares about him or his needs. Does the focus on nature helps us see him more positively?
It's a shorter stanza that only has five lines compared to normal ten. The poet Charlotte Mew has left you to finish the poem off yourself. It’s almost asking you to think about what he might do after the last line and wants you to think about how desperate he really is.
Who is to blame for these feelings?
'leveret' is a young hare, this simile makes the wife seem to be very fearful and to flee when he comes close like a hare does (see 'wide' stare), but also innocent and vulnerable.
This simile suggests: fragility, flexibility, mouldability. Alliteration - softer sounds - sibilance.
The wild violets represent how unpredictable the wife is.
The only question used is here, to show the farmer's feeling of doubt: he doubts the value of marrying his young bride or perhaps doubts himself for choosing her particularly.

The question suggests he doesn't know his wife at all, which could make the reader, for the second (possibly) time in the poem, pity the farmer.
Has he been let down?
Is this his fault?
Is this just an indication of his growing frustration?
Colours used are important to give the reader a more vivid image of the season as well as the time of year.
The colours used portray a dark outlook of life as he slips into depression over his troubled marriage. Approach of winter when nothing grows and farmers are making do with what they have.
A single magpie is a
symbol of bad times
and bad luck. One for sorrow...
She hasn't overcome her fear as she is sleeping in the loft to get away from the farmer. Or perhaps he has her there so it's harder for her to escape.
1. Farmer feels sorry for his wife as she's all alone (even though this may be what she wants).
2. This highlights her vulnerability. You can almost feel him building up to doing what he wants to do...
The 'down' of somebody is the very fine and small hairs that can be found on the skin of your arms, back or face. These hairs cannot be seen from a distance, this means:
a) the farmer must have been extremely close to be able to describe them or
b) he is imagining it and this is an indication of his feverish need for her.
The exclamation marks used show that the farmer is becoming more and more excited about something he might do.
Stanza Four
Stanza Five
Stanza Six
Different rhyming patterns in
each stanza. Seasonal?
Does this indicate a relationship change
or a change in the farmer's attitude to the
relationship depending on the season?
Is this understandable?
This could be done to give a background feeling of unpredictability so we are kept on edge.
Is the end predictable?
How much sympathy should we have for the
Is this one of those poems that is meant to
be a wake-up call when it reveals our
own prejudices or harmful cultural
traditions or beliefs?

1. Read it
2. Talk about it:
What is the story?
What is the poet saying about marriage?
Lots of nature-related imagery and description used in this poem. Keep an eye out for it.
She lies awake when he comes into their/her room. A sign of fear? 'Wide' stare suggests fear.
The poem reflects the Victorian era and its attitude towards women and marriage, particularly in rural areas.
A family history of mental illness led to Charlotte deciding not to have children because she was scared the children would become 'insane'.
Mew often dressed in male clothing (e.g. suits), conspicuously challenging male and female stereotypes. It was said to make her look like a man of importance; this idea is reflected in most of her poems.
Learning objectives:
Understand the context of the poem.
Use analysis skills to interpret the message Mew is trying to convey about attitudes to marriage.

Do Now: Which poems have we previously studied that are, or might be, about a married couple?
Full transcript