I’m wife; I’ve finished that,
That other state;
I’m Czar, I’m woman now:
It’s safer so.
How odd the girl’s life looks
Behind this soft eclipse!
I think that earth seems so
To those in heaven now.
This being comfort, then
That other kind was pain;
But why compare?
I’m wife! stop there!
Brenna: Pam. We already did this one. SIGH
Wait, no. We did not.
Brenna: I did the one AFTER it.
Pam: Well, I still have no idea what is happening.
Brenna: Okay. “Apocalypse.” !! That’s not ominous.
Pam: END of the WorLd
Brenna: Who the hell titled this poem??
Pam: That is a wonderful question. If she’s wife, what has she finished?
Brenna: Being a little girl. And it’s weird that she finds being a wife “safer.” RUN, EMILY. IT IS NOT SAFE. DANGER, WILL ROBINSON.
Pam: We know that she was not a wife. Am I meant to assume some other narrator? Is she being obscure for the heck of it? Is she a nun? Is she married to God? What is HAPPENING I seriously do not know.
Brenna: She likes to write as if she’s a wife. From a wife’s perspective.
Pam: Why? Please school me.
Brenna: I guess for the reason any poet writes from any other perspective?Also it could be a God poem. Or a dude poem. Either one. I think she must have liked imagining she was married. Imagining is for sure safer.
Pam: Okay, so: she’s wife now. She’s Czar, so she gets to be in charge, unlike in her unwedded state.
Brenna: I think she’s writing from the perspective of a married woman. She’s left behind childhood, girlhood. Where it gets weird for me is her assertion that being a wife is safer.
Pam: Yes! How is this safer?
Brenna: Wives die in childbirth. It’s not safer, Emily!!
Pam: I was just typing that!! Safer economically, perhaps, assuming the husband is a decent provider?
Brenna: Maybe it’s safer because now she’s in a relationship? Now she’s married and no longer searching. She’s a “heart in port,” safe from the tempestuous passion of “wild nights” and from temptation? And then she reflects on how strange childhood looks from her womanly perspective, and that makes sense to me. It’s surreal to take on an adult role. I wonder how many of us ever really feel fully adult. I remember my mom telling me that when she was married with young children, she used to sometimes look around in a daze and wonder where the grownups were.
Pam: The way she describes the two states is very interesting to me. We have wife, czar, woman, and safer vs. that and that other state.
Brenna: Yes! super interesting and weird. And “czar” is a male role. So by becoming a wife she’s become a man? Because she’s joined with a man?
Pam: And that last rhyming couplet is such a childlike thing to say!
Brenna: It is! It’s like she reverts at the end.
Pam: There’s this image of the grownup married woman saying these ridiculously simple rhymes.
Brenna: And I think that’s telling.
Pam: Yes! It subverts the idea that marriage = adult, grownup, more wise. It’s like the person who tells you how incredibly humble they are.
Brenna: “This being comfort, then/ That other kind was pain”. This is a weird thought. “Because marriage is comfort, then it logically follows that childhood was NOT comfort.” It’s like she’s trying to convince herself with bad logic. So there’s this reversal. The wife doth protest too much. She opens with “It’s so great to be a wife!” but then flip flops at the end. “It MUST be great to be a wife because everybody says so and I’m supposed to want this.”
Pam: Yes! We have to wonder who the audience is, if it’s not just the speaker saying these things to convince herself.
Brenna: “But why compare?/ I’m wife! Stop there!” It’s as if, looking back at childhood from her current reality of marriage, which is supposed to be better, she’s trying to tell us that it’s not better. But as a wife, she’s not allowed to say that. She has to make it sound good, but she has serious reservations. She has to shut herself up so she doesn’t say what she’s really thinking. I wonder…is this Emily trying to convince herself that it’s better to remain single??
Pam: Or, at least, to show us that being a wife doesn’t mean that your problems go away.
Brenna: Hell no they do not go away. You just end up with kids who get the plague and then you are stuck at home cleaning things and cooking soup and going out of your mind. Of course it is possible that my current mental state is coloring my reading of this poem… Maybe the speaker is imagining what it’s like to be a wife. She wonders if she’s missing anything. She thinks at first that she is–comfort, stability, a steady relationship to depend on. But as she thinks about it, she realizes what she’s losing.
Pam: Yes! I think this is why the rhyme scheme switches in the last stanza, too.
Brenna: I love reversals in poems. I geek out about this kind of thing.
Pam: She’s exploring in the first two stanzas, and in the last she’s come to a decision–but it’s not the one she expected. This may be why she reverts to this more childlike rhyme scheme; the first two stanzas are still AABB, but they are very, very loose rhymes. You can’t tell me that anybody, even in the 1800s, actually thought that that/state was anything other than a slant rhyme. But we have perfect rhyme in compare/there. Your current mental state is RELEVANT to this poem.
Brenna: I love how you always bring it back to the rhyme scheme. I forget to do that.
Pam: I can’t help but to check the rhyme scheme first every time.
What do you think? Have we done it justice?
Brenna: I think we have done it all the justice we can possibly do it at this moment. Stop there!