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The poem’s title stands for the poet’s mother’s name, Caroline. L. Masefield. He composed this poem as a tribute to his mother and all the other women too. Women undergo a lot of complications to give birth and yet are not given their due respect. The poet highlights the pain of a mother when bearing a child and birthing it while also highlighting the injustices women face because of men.
The poem is divided into 5 stanzas of 6 lines each and follows the couplet rhyme scheme.
In the dark womb where I began My mother’s life made me a man. Through all the months of human birth Her beauty fed my common earth. I cannot see, nor breathe, nor stir, But through the death of some of her .
The poet recalls the place where his life originally began, the dark womb. The poet became a man because of his mother’s life, while bearing a child a mother loses some of her life in order to nurture the new life growing inside her. Her beauty, in essence, her emotional and physical strength nurtured the poet in becoming the man he is.
Down in the darkness of the grave She cannot see the life she gave. For all her love, she cannot tell Whether I use it ill or well, Nor knock at dusty doors to find Her beauty dusty in the mind.
Unfortunately, the poet’s mother is no more and from her grave, she is unaware of how her baby is or how he or she will grow up to be and use their life. Whether they will bring light or darkness to the world, she can not tell.
If the grave’s gates could be undone, She would not know her little son, I am so grown. If we should meet, She would pass by me in the street, Unless my soul’s face let her see My sense of what she did for me.
Even if she could somehow return to the world, she would not recognise her little son, the poet who has now grown into a man. She would most probably pass him in the street and assume him to be just another man walking by, unless his soul opened up to her and let her see how grateful he is to her.
What have I done to keep in mind My debt to her and womankind? What woman’s happier life repays Her for those months of wretched days? For all my mouthless body leech’d Ere Birth’s releasing hell was reach’d?
The poet feels as if he has wasted both their lives, hers because she lost a part of her life in making him and his because he did not do anything to repay her. He feels as if he should have done something to better the lives of women, to honour them and cherish them.
What have I done, or tried or said In thanks to that dear woman dead? Men triumph over women still, Men trample women’s rights at will, And man’s lust roves the world untamed. O grave, keep shut lest I be shamed!
He expresses disgust over how men treat women, how they try to dominate women and control them, or how they trample over the rights of women. Their lust for power and dominance repels him. He is ashamed and fears that should the grave open and free his mother, she would be appalled to see that he has not reformed the situation unfolding before him.
The poet has very beautifully expressed the overflow of emotions that he feels towards his mother. He is eternally grateful to her for giving life to him even though it weakened her mind and body. He is also regretful and guilty for not having done much for women’s rights and justice.