The work of Louise Bogan (1897-1970) shares the restrained,
intellectual style and traditional elements of English Metaphysical
poets, while retaining a sense of modernity and the personal. Click to Order Bogan's Blue Estuaries (soft $).
Although her first book was published in 1923, she wrote
throughout her life, with her last book published the year of her
death in 1970. Bogan was also an accomplished literary critic,
known for her objectivity and fairness.
While "Women" was written early in Bogan's career, it exemplifies
her strength of combining the personal with the public. In doing
so, she deals with the political issue of feminism through irony
(in which she states things about women she obviously doesn't
believe). This irony is further heightened through her use of
traditional poetic images (such as "cell of their hearts", "red winter
grass", and "Snow water going down under culverts."
Only in the last stanza does Bogan begin to reveal the poem's true
center: that when a new bride is carried over the door-sill in the
arms of her husband, she is in a sense losing/taking her life, or
at least an aspect of it that "They should let ... go by."
Women have no wilderness in them,
They are provident instead,
Content in the tight hot cell of their hearts
To eat dusty bread.
They do not see cattle cropping red winter grass,
They do not hear
Snow water going down under culverts
Shallow and clear.
They wait, when they should turn to journeys,
They stiffen, when they should bend.
They use against themselves that benevolence
To which no man is friend.
They cannot think of so many crops to a field
Or of clean wood cleft by an axe.
Their love is an eager meaninglessness
Too tense or too lax.
They hear in any whisper that speaks to them
A shout and a cry.
As like as not, when they take life over their door-sill
They should let it go by.
1923. from Body of This Death.