"A QUOI BON DIRE" 1

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By Charlotte Mew
(1869-1927)
A Quoi Bon Dire
Seventeen years ago you said
Something that sounded like Good-bye
And everybody thinks that you are dead,
But I.
So I, as I grow stiff and cold
To this and that say Good-bye too;
And everybody sees that I am old
But you.
And one fine morning in a sunny lane
Some boy and girl will meet and kiss and swear
That nobody can love their way again
While over there
You will have smiled, I shall have tossed your hair.
Poets Background
• Charlotte Mew was born in London in 1869. Her first published work
was a short story in The Yellow Book in 1894. In 1912 Mew met a
leading novelist, May Sinclair who was active in the woman's
suffrage movement. Mew fell in love with her but Sinclair did not
have the same feelings and the relationship eventually broke up.
• During 1913 was one of the most productive periods for Mews
poetry, and she became an admired poet. She lived with her mother
and sister Anne, an artist, and found inspiration when she went on
holidays.
• In 1923 she was awarded a Civil List pension. Mews elder brother
and younger sister had been taken to mental hospitals and so she
and her sister Anne decided to take a vow to never marry.
• In 1927 Mew killed herself.
Shape and Pattern
• ‘A Quoi Bon Dire’ translates to ‘What good is there to say?’
• The first two stanzas are a quatrain (four lines) and the last is just a
normal stanza.
• The rhyme scheme ABAB gives the poem a measured pace.
• The steady rhythm in the first three lines of stanzas 1 and 2 is iambic
tetrameter. The short and sharp end to the stanzas emphasis how the
lovers are contrasted with everybody else.
• The line “Some boy and girl will meet and kiss and swear” has a
calm repeated rhythm to it giving the poem more of a joyful tone.
• The ideas of the poem develop through each stanza and the poem is
ended with a positive note.
• In stanza 1 “But I” and in stanza 2 “But you” are both short and seem
isolated but in stanza 3 they are reunited.
• In stanza 2 ‘This and that’ is an example of alliteration referring to
life; how it means so little to them compared to the poets lost love.
Language and Tone
• The language of the poem is simple and informal.
• In stanzas 1 and 2 ‘Goodbye’ is capitalised showing that it is the final
goodbye, the farewell of death.
• The tone of the poem is sad and changes to happy. Stanza 1 has a sibilance
which creates a slow pace and calm, sorrowful tone.
• “Seventeen years ago you..” the emphasis is on the ‘you’ which suggests that
there is a personal connection,
• The use of positive diction in stanza 3 ‘One fine morning in a sunny lane’
marks a change in tone showing the poets happiness, as she is finally
reunited with her lover.
• “Some boy and girl will meet and kiss and swear
that nobody can love their way again" shows the reader that poet is in a
joyful mood because as the boy and girl have a love no one can feel so does
she with her lover.
• “While over there” implies that in death the lovers have reunited and are
watching over a young couple and the final line “you will have smiled and I
will have tossed your hair” ends the poem in a positive note.
Theme
• Loss- “And everyone thinks you are dead but I”
• Ageing- “So as I grow stiff and cold”
• Love- “Nobody can love their way again…you will have smiled and
I will have tossed your hair”
• Time- “Seventeen years ago”
You can compare this poem with:
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One Art
Because I Could Not Stop For Death
A Dream
Times Fool
Cold In The Earth
Elegy For My Fathers Father
The Trees Are Down
From the Ballad of Reading Goal
Poem Summary
• The poem is written from first person perspective who is the poet,
Charlotte Mew.
• She is writing about her deceased lover and how she still loves her.
• The poem is bittersweet as it is about how love continues even
when one Mews lover dies.
• The sweet part is that her love continues and that she still feels that
connection with her dead lover.
• The bitter part is that one of them is dead and has been dead for
over 17 years.
Personal Response
• I found this poem, “A Quoi Bon Dire” beautiful as it shows the
never-ending love of Charlotte Mew. After reading it the first time I
didn’t quite understand it but once I read it again I could pull things
from it. It’s quite a simple straight forward poem and I enjoyed
reading it.
• I think people who can understand this poem are people that can
relate to it, so if someone has lost a loved one they will be able to
understand. Overall it was a good read!
By Deepali S.
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