Charlotte Mew’s ‘Rooms’ focuses on the theme of confinement. She employs the concept of a room to convey how restricted and controlled she, or at least her speaker, was throughout her life. She moved about, ending up in unsatisfactory and gloomy rooms that finally led her to the one she’s in now- one that smelled like seaweed and water constantly battered her. There, she sleeps with another person who is also confined. Mew’s speaker is bound in every manner a woman may have been in the nineteenth century.
Throughout the poem, it is pretty simple to read aspects of Mew’s personal life, such as the deaths of her siblings, the confinement of others in a mental hospital, and the life she had with her sickly sister until she died of cancer and Mew herself committed suicide. In ‘Rooms,’ the rooms are prisons. They’re all over the place in the globe and her life, and each one restricts and governs her. It isn’t until they are both dead, Mew and her sister, that they may be accessible in the rain and sun in their graves.
Below, you’ll find the full poem.
I remember rooms that have had their part
In the steady slowing down of the heart.
The room in Paris, the room at Geneva,
The little damp room with the seaweed smell,
And that ceaseless maddening sound of the tide—
Rooms where for good or for ill—things died.
But there is the room where we (two) lie dead,
Though every morning we seem to wake and might just as well seem to sleep again
As we shall somewhere in the other quieter, dustier bed
Out there in the sun—in the rain.
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