‘Cousin Kate’ by Christina Rossetti
This Victorian poem is about the narrator (a fallen woman), the Lord and Kate. It is a ballad which tells the story from the narrator’s perspective about being shunned by society after her ‘experiences’ with the lord. The poem’s female speaker recalls her contentment in her humble surroundings until the local ‘Lord of the Manor’ took her to be his lover. He discarded her when she became pregnant and his affections turned to another village girl, Kate, whom he then married. Although the speaker’s community condemned the speaker as a ‘fallen’ woman, she reflects that her love for the lord was more faithful than Kate’s. She is proud of the son she bore him and is sure that the man is unhappy that he and Kate remain childless. Some readers think that she feels more betrayed by her cousin than the lord. This poem is a dramatic monologue written in the Victorian era.
The poem is written in first person narrative. It has 6 stanzas of 8 lines: One stanza each on the narrator, the Lord and Kate; stanza 4 contrasts the position of the narrator and Kate; stanza 5 criticises Kate and stanza 6 focuses on the narrator’s triumph at having a child. Each stanza is the same length and each line has a similar rhythm, giving it a ballad-like feel. It could also be conveying the strength and perseverance of the narrator who has to face life in conflict with the expectations of Victorian society. Note that the tone changes as the poem progresses - regret, accusation, bitterness, triumph.
The rhyme scheme always connects the B (2nd line) of each couplet. E.g Stanza one – AB/CB/DB/DB. Sometimes the first line of the couplet is rhymed. The rhyme emphasises the last world to aid meaning. The regular rhyme could also suggest that narrator has not only been dominated by the Lord (because men and in particular men of a higher social standing) but is also trapped with Victorian social conventions (she is now a fallen...
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