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Poem of the Month February
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Poem of the Month – February

The Visiting Sea

by Alice Meynell

As the inhastening tide doth roll,
Home from the deep, along the whole
Wide shining strand, and floods the caves,
—Your love comes filling with happy waves
The open sea-shore of my soul.

But inland from the seaward spaces,
None knows, not even you, the places
Brimmed, at your coming, out of sight,
—The little solitudes of delight
This tide constrains in dim embraces.

You see the happy shore, wave-rimmed,
But know not of the quiet dimmed
Rivers your coming floods and fills,
The little pools ’mid happier hills,
My silent rivulets, over-brimmed.

What! I have secrets from you? Yes.
But, visiting Sea, your love doth press
And reach in further than you know,
And fills all these; and, when you go,
There’s loneliness in loneliness.

Source: The Poems of Alice Meynell: Complete Edition (London: Geoffrey Cumberlege Oxford University Press, 1940, rpt. 1947.

A love poem seems in order for the month of February, and to provide what I hope could be an intriguing shift from the great poem of the canonical Thomas Hardy last month, I offer up the less well known poem of his contemporary, Alice Meynell (1847-1922). Meynell, unlike many fin-de-siècle women poets, was never lost to view, but she remained better known for her essays than her poems. Even among her poems, the most famous is “Renunciation,” a sonnet that D. G. Rossetti pronounced one of the finest poems ever written by a woman.

I bypass that famous love sonnet to settle on “The Visiting Sea,” first published in Meynell’s debut volume Preludes (1875).

But what kind of love poem is it that positions “delight” and “embraces” in the context of “solitudes” or that makes “silen[ce]” and “secrets” central to the “happy” experience of love?

What sorts of intertextual relationships does the poem set into play both formally and substantively relative to other male and female poets (especially Victorian poets)?

And, as Maria Frawley suggests, is Meynell less concerned here about her position as woman poet than in representing the complex processes of cognition (“‘The Tides of the Mind’: Alice Meynell’s Poetry of Perception,” Victorian Poetry 38.1 [Spring 2000]: 62-76), or is Meynell’s experience of gender central to “The Visiting Sea”?

All “visiting” commentators and their “inhastening” responses are welcome.

–Linda K. Hughes

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