The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter
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Stanza 3 Summary Page 1
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever, and forever.
Why should I climb the look out?
- Now that the couple has been married a year, the speaker has become a little more comfortable with this whole marriage business.
- She stopped scowling, which is like angry frowning. Given this point, we can go back to stanza 2 and re-evaluate. Maybe she really was ignoring her husband because she was unhappy to be married to him.
- Now, though, she's so comfortable that she proclaims her love for her husband in a pretty dramatic way.
- Think of the mingling dust as a figurative way to describe the wife's commitment to her husband.
- Like a lot of figurative language, the exact meaning here is open to interpretation. It can be taken as literal: that, when they die and are cremated, their remains be mixed together so they stay together after death ("Forever and forever, and forever").
- The second is more of a metaphor: that the two bodies, made of the stuff of the earth, should become intertwined through sex. And, like all great promises of romantic love, this one will go on without end!
- Then the tone starts to shift towards what the speaker is really getting at…
- She asks her husband why she should climb to a "look out" (a.k.a. a high point to see people coming from far away) to wait for him to return.
- But don't read this question at face value. Maybe she asks this because she's trying to emphasize how this year of their relationship wasn't complicated by the problems that all long-distance relationships have. She didn't have to climb the look out, because her husband was always around. Aww.