A Quoi Bon Dire

By: Charlotte Mew
Mew’s Background
 Charlotte Mary Mew (15 November 1869 –24 March 1928) was
an English poet
 Her father died in 1898
 two of her siblings suffered from mental illness
 Through most of her adult life, Mew wore masculine attire and
kept her hair short
Many of her poems are in the form of dramatic monologues and
she often wrote from a male point of view
After the death of her sister from cancer in 1927, she descended
into a deep depression admitted to a nursing home where she
eventually committed suicide by drinking Lysol.
Seventeen years ago you said
Something that sounded like Good-bye:
And everybody thinks you are dead
But I.
So I as I grow stiff and cold
To this and that say Good-bye too;
And everybody sees that I am old
But you.
And one fine morning in a sunny lane
Some boy and girl will meet and kiss and swear
That nobody can love their way again
While over there
You will have smiled, and I shall have tossed your hair.
Stanza 1
 Basis of the poem made clear, written in the
first person from the perspective of a person
whose partner died seventeen years ago.
 Although everybody else sees them as dead, in
the speaker’s eyes they are still alive and
present. Their love has transcended death
itself and the speaker is addressing the dead
lover throughout the poem.
Stanza 2
 More information is given in this stanza ‘stiff
and cold’ is something of an idiom* revealing
that the speaker is on the verge of death.
 ‘This and that’ - alliteration referring to life;
the fact that it seems such a casual phrase
 Good-bye is capitalised, showing that it is the
final good-bye, the farewell of death.
*An idiom is a combination of words that has a meaning that is different from the
meanings of the individual words themselves.
Stanza 3
 final stanza - lovers are reunited in death. The use
of positive diction* in the line ‘One fine morning
in a sunny lane’ marks a change in tone
 Listing of ‘meet and kiss and swear’ makes the
poem have universal relevance, it makes love seem
easy and relatable.
 Consonance with the repetition of the ‘l’ sound
throughout this stanza. Creates a soothing tone,
like a lullaby which reflects the mood.
*diction is the term used to refer to the linguistic style, the vocabulary,
and the metaphors used in the writing of poetry.
 Very positive
 Not bitter or regretful as speaker is looking forward to
meeting her lover again when she dies. This
excitement is projected in the very last sentence
“smiled” and “tossed”.
 Themes: Love & Loss, Reflection, Death
Very simple and easily understood. Helps to convey the
memory of her childhood clearly.
 “It sounded like Good-bye” reinforces idea that the
speaker never thought it was the end of the
relationship even when everybody else knew it was.
 “So as I grow stiff and cold” shows that she is aging and
growing old. Moving toward death and saying “Goodbye” to people for the last time. Although speaker does
not look old in the eyes of her lover.
 Sibilance in the stanza creates a slow pace and a calm,
somewhat sorrowful tone.
 Rhyme scheme of ABAB gives a measured pace.
 Steady rhythm in the first 3 lines of stanzas one and
two is iambic tetrameter ( four iambic feet) followed
by an abrupt 2 syllable line in lines 4 and 8.
 Short sharp end to the stanzas, emphasises how the
lovers are contrasted with everybody else, and makes
their love seem more powerful
 Other love poems depressing but this one = quite
 love depicted in this poem is a happier one than in
other poems
 Muses upon the memory of a young innocent love.
 This past love has left the speaker regretful but only
because of the passing of time. This particular lost love
has not left her bitter or damaged her.
 Testimony to the enduring quality of love. The love shared
between the poet and her lover is still alive while she is still
 Speaker believes the two once separated by death, will be
now be united by death. Together they will watch as others
love as they have loved.
 In this gentle poem of loss and ageing, Mew compares the
idealistic optimism of youth with the realities of age and
mortality. There is no bitterness in the poem’s vision – the
final images are carefree, although separated from the ‘fine
morning in a sunny lane’ inhabited by the young lovers.
 http://asliteratureavcol.wordpress.com/2011/08/20/a-

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