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The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter

The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter


by Ezra Pound

Stanza 2 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 7-10

At fourteen I married My Lord you,
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

  • At age fourteen, they get married! (That might sound wild to us, but remember that this letter is coming from a different time and place.)
  • According to the wife, her husband is her lord—or, more importantly, her "Lord." 
  • The capitalization of "Lord" suggests that the husband fits into the role of the noble (a medieval term for boss), and the wife is then the vassal (a medieval word for a loyal supporter of a lesser status).
  • Again: shock! But, for all you gals out there, remember that women didn't even have the right to vote in 1915.
  • So this fourteen-year-old child-bride is all shy and passive. She doesn't even look her husband (or anyone else for that matter) in the eye.
  • Yes, even when people called to her, she never looked up from the ground or the wall.
  • Now, what do you make of this passivity? Is she showing ultimate respect? Is she just being super-duper-shy? Another way of looking at this stanza is to see it as evidence of how she resisted the marriage: namely, by ignoring her new husband. So, maybe things didn't start out happily ever after. Let's see how they turned out…

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