Rooms (by Charlotte Mew) In-Depth Analysis and Evaluation

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The Poem

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/55326

Background of the Poet

  • Charlotte Mew was an English poet.
  • Her works span the cusp between Victorian poetry and Modernism, and this is definitely seen with this poem and its unique and idiosyncratic structure and style of dealing with the concept of love and wisdom.

Structure and Rhyme Scheme

  • Completely irregular (finally!) rhyme scheme and structure of the poem. In addition, only a singular stanza. 10 line poem (Décima)
  • A single stanza could denote a singular life that we all live and therefore we progress from a more chaotic view of love to a more informed and wisdom-ridden age.
  • The irregular structure and rhyme scheme could easily denote how life is indeed regular with the numerous and alternating experiences we all have, which is pretty much different for all of us in what we may go through in life.
  • However, there are random insertions of couplets, for instance the first two lines of the poem. This could denote love and how there must always be two lines (i.e. two people) for each other to rhyme, and therefore could reinforce the idea of love. Alternatively, the way Mew has randomly situated these couplets could also denote the random nature of the existence of couples and love throughout the world.

Title

  • ‘Rooms’. Very simple — a singular word. The idea 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 background. 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. (It’s pretty thought provoking!).
  • In addition, the title could be referring to the area where people go to every night to sleep. If you read the entire poem with the idea of sleeping in mind, then the poem will begin to make sense from that context, however there are many other ways of looking at Mew’s poem and we shall be exploring these ways below in the analysis!

Themes

  • Love, Wisdom and Age.
  • Individualism.
  • Modernism.
  • Sleep.

Language Analysis and Critical Appreciation

  • ‘…remember rooms’: Alliteration. As if rooms have some sort of meaning in addition to the experiences observed in the rooms. The alliteration almost produces an acoustic effect from the get go of the poem which encapsulates the reader and propels them to read further.
  • ‘…steady slowing’: Again alliteration, further developed ‘…of the heart’, which essentially denotes the gradually decreasing heart beat of someone. When does this happen? 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. Rather than knowing when and at what time someone dies, Mew is also interested in the room that said person was in when they died. This is because perhaps she sees a room as a means of deducing certain characteristics about someone.
  • ‘The room in Paris, the room at Geneva’: Uses asyndeton here to provide an almost list of examples of rooms in different parts of the world. This could alternatively be a reference to different experiences Mew has had in said parts of the world and therefore hold a certain value of importance to her.
  • ‘…seaweed smell’: Again alliteration, the idea of it having a seaweed smell almost produces an oceanic quality of the room in discussion. In addition, not only does the visual aspect of a room matter, but also the scent a room holds which is attributed to certain rooms.
  • ‘…maddening sound’: The tide could be a reference to the ultimate destination of death of everyone, and as you age (which is constantly), the sound of said tide becomes maddening with the volume increasing and increasing, and therefore defined as ‘maddening’ for Mew because it is almost sinister the idea of death to a person. Or, alternatively, she could be referring to how irritating the tide may sound if it ceases to stop.
  • ‘…things died’: Again, she is exploring the idea of things dying in rooms and that could be why she assigns them such importance, and thus importance is exemplified with the title of the poem being ‘Rooms’.
  • ‘…(two) lie dead’: Visits the idea of death and love here, and could be referring to a morgue.
  • ‘…just as well seem to sleep again’: Okay so this is a really important line because you would notice that it is exaggeratedly long and therefore emphasising the idea of Mew’s longing of wanting to continue sleeping with her partner and therefore, alternatively, could be the extent of her love which is shown to be overflowing. Alternatively, this line could be visiting the idea of existentialism because if we are going to eventually die then there is no point in essentially living and therefore the only thing a person ‘might’ just do is sleep since there really isn’t any point if you think about it.
  • ‘quieter, dustier bed’: She is referring to a grave here. This could be denoted because usually a graveyard is relatively quieter than a home or a bedroom. Also, graveyards are usually described with such terms such as aged, and the idea of it being ‘…dust[y]’ reinforces this concept. Also there is the use of enjambment throughout these lines which shows the overflowing nature of life and our progression through it. It is endless until the final period which is experienced at the end of the last line.
  • ‘Out there in the sun—-in the rain’: When someone is buried, then although they are underground they still may experience small glimpses of sun and rain and therefore in a way it could symbolise a source of freedom from being confined in rooms throughout the entirety of ones life — to finally be free out in the sun and the rain and experience the beauty of life even though one may be dead.
  • Also we see the progression from seeing rooms more vaguely from the beginning of the poem to seeing them as an area which holds beds, to further seeing beds as a final resting place and in which is a symbol of death as most people usually die on their beds (traditionally) while sick or ageing. This further emphasises the theme of ageing and where through wisdom, one understands and may go through a period of disillusionment of the world and no longer believe it to hold a be-all-end-all context, but instead, realise the futility of it which further explains the third last line of the poem.
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