The Curate's Kindness - A Workhouse Irony (2)


Just then one young Pa'son arriving
Steps up out of breath
To the side o' the waggon wherein we were driving
To Union; and calls out and saith:


"Old folks, that harsh order is altered,
Be not sick of heart!
The Guardians they poohed and they pished and they paltered
When urged not to keep you apart.


"'It is wrong,' I maintained, 'to divide them,
Near forty years wed.'
'Very well, sir. We promise, then, they shall abide them
In one wing together,' they said."


Then I sank--knew 'twas quite a foredone thing
That misery should be
To the end! ... To get freed of her there was the one thing
Had made the change welcome to me.


To go there was ending but badly;
'Twas shame and 'twas pain;
"But anyhow," thought I, "thereby I shall gladly
Get free of this forty years' chain."


I thought they'd be strangers aroun' me,
But she's to be there!
Let me jump out o' waggon and go back and drown me
At Pummery or Ten-Hatches Weir.


Anonymous said...

i am studying this poem as part of my english as course. i dont really understand it :(
but i do like hardys writing in general.

Anonymous said...

The Yetties have made a fantastic recording of this poem in their authentic Dorset Dialect. No, you can't use going to the Workhouse as an excuse for getting rid of the wife after 40 years because ......"shes to be there!!"

Bella said...

What exactly does this poem mean? I struggle to puzzle out its theme/meanings.

Anonymous said...

im studying too, its my halfterm homework to read this (and other) hardy poems and make notes. but this one is really quite confusing! any help would be greatly recivered :) x

Anonymous said...

Under the New Poor Law of 1834, elderly men and women had been separated when they entered the workhouse.

Around the turn of the century, this regulation was relaxed so that there would now be a married wing in workhouses, allowing married couples to remain together.

The poem is a brutally funny comment on this change, with an old man, looking forward to getting some peace and quiet away from his wife. Until he finds out that the rules had changed, they'd remain together until the end, and he simply couldn't get rid of her. Hence his wish that he could go off and drown himself in the river.