Poem for October


I remember rooms that have had their part
In the steady slowing down of the heart.
The room in Paris, the room at Geneva,
The little damp room with the seaweed smell,
And that ceaseless maddening sound of the tide —
Rooms where for good or for ill — things died.
But there is the room where we two lie dead
Though every morning we seem to wake and might just as well seem to sleep again
As we shall somewhere in the other quieter, dustier bed
Out there in the sun — in the rain.

Charlotte Mew

Not one to cheer you up, this short poem of loneliness and despair is by Charlotte Mew (1869 – 1928). Born into a large but struggling middle class family in mid-Victorian London, two of her siblings were schizophrenic and several others died young. Her sexuality (she was almost certainly a repressed lesbian) was to make her an outsider, and her isolation and failure to find love is captured powerfully in this poem. At the age of almost fifty she found a publisher for a small collection of her poems under the title of The Farmers Bride, but never achieved widespread recognition in her lifetime. In the spring of 1928, following the death of her sister, she took her own life. The means she chose, a bottle of creosote, seems tragically apt. Contributed by David Underdown.