Rooms: By CHARLOTTE MEW
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.
Answer the following questions:
I worked with Sol Bernusi and Trinidad Torrendell.
1. Read about the writer.
Make notes about her life and about what may have influenced her writings. Why is it said that the life of the writer was a tragedy?
It is said that her life was a tragedy because:
- She came from a large family of seven children, Mew witnessed three brothers die while she was still a child, another was committed to a mental asylum alongside one of her sisters – both for schizophrenia. As a result of this history of mental illness, both her and the remaining sister decided not to marry so they wouldn’t pass on these issues to their children.
- It is also believed that she was a lesbian, in a time when it was definitely not cool to be a lesbian. However, it is unclear as to whether she ever realised her sexuality with a lesbian relationship. It sounds a bit to me like critics have put two and two together when learning that she used to wear tailored men’s suits and decided that made her a lesbian.
Her works span the cusp between Victorian poetry and Modernism. During the Victorian period men and women’s roles became more sharply defined than at any time in history. In earlier centuries it had been usual for women to work alongside husbands and brothers in the family business.
2. Read the poem: how are “rooms” described?
Rooms is an interesting title for such a poetic peace, due to its simple meaning; a part or division of a building enclosed by walls, floor, and ceiling. But the literal meaning is not what gives the poem sense, the figurative meaning is what makes this title worth it. Mew materializes romantic relationships and separate them into rooms, reflecting about how each relationship affected her on her life. When she visits different old rooms (previous relationships) with melancholy, she ends up remembering why they ended. However, she finally tells us about the room she decided to never end up with, which is filled with memories of passion, but has much more than that.
‘…remember rooms’: Alliteration. As if rooms have some sort of meaning in addition to the experiences observed in the rooms.
.‘…steady slowing’: Again alliteration, further developed ‘…of the heart’, which essentially denotes the gradually decreasing heartbeat of someone. When does for example, when you sleep. Therefore, Mew is referring to sleep and how she remembers the rooms she has slept in. Alternatively, the slowing down of a heart could refer to the eventual death of someone, in this case the relationship.
3. “The poem offers us a poignant account of loss as qualified through the depiction of abandoned rooms. Rooms are the physical means to which relationships are developed and consecrated. It entails intimacy and love, as well as abandon and death. It shelters individuals, as well as couples, from the harshness of the natural elements outside, providing them with a private and cosy space. There is also a sense of shifting dependence as the couples travel from room to room, leaving their trails behind and simultaneously having images of the abandoned rooms imprinted upon their memories.” Account for this with quotation from the poem
I can account for this, by the following quotations:
- “Rooms where for good or for ill, things died”
- “Through every morning we seem to wake and might just as well seem to sleep again”
4. The poem begins “I remember”. What does this tell you about the voice? And the tone?
The opening of the poem is deeply nostalgic, with brief flashes of forgotten joy mingled with remembered bitterness. However, these diametrically opposed memories are quickly washed over with reason that stems from the joy of having a secure, stable and fully realised loved. The last four lines are a happy recall from nostalgia to the joy of today.
5. What is the theme in your opinion? What is the tone?
The theme could denote how we spend our lives essentially in rooms, and each room has its own experience and background which ultimately shapes our identity and future. Alternatively, and in addition, the rooms we spend our time in could eventually shape our personalities and identities and therefore the word rooms is used as the setting or context in which we spend the majority of our lives. Moreover, the tone of the poem is nostalgia (“I remember”) and sorrowfulness mixed with joy, its something the author misses and remembers. Something thats no longer there, something that had died.
Virtual period Activity (Deadline: May 15)
- Read the following poem and compare and contrast it to “Rooms” in terms of style, language and form, paying special attention to their portrayal of abandoned rooms.
Home is so Sad
by Philip Larkin
Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft
And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.