Is this a lesbian poem?


The sweet remembrance of clinging kisses

Out of her life she tore,

Till all was black where it once was shining,

And cold where it once was warm;

The tempest raged in her soul’s abysses,

With torrent and flash and roar.

But she passed unshrinking and unrepining

Into the heart of the storm

*             *             *             *             *

The darkened days of her doubt were over,

The throes of her wrestling past;

Though heaven and earth should be leagued against her

With weapons that hell might form.

The forms and fears that of old had fenced her,

Out of her life she cast –

In the world’s despite she fled to her lover

Into the heart of the storm


In April 1894 this poem was published in a Welsh newspaper. It appeared alongside a number of other mini stories and poems, most probably by local writers, all of which excite no particular curiosity. However this poem is curious.

Despite the title the narrative concerns one woman. And from the first we are made aware that she is in a romance – the ‘sweet remembrance of clinging kisses.’ But this pleasant recollection is quickly shattered by a brutal comparison of two different lives, the one she is leaving and the one she is facing. Leaving the old is a ripping away as ‘out of her life she tore.’  And a life described as ‘shining’ and ‘warm’ is replaced by one that is ‘black’ and ‘cold.’ We know that the woman’s decision to leave has not being taken lightly as the ‘tempest raged in her soul’s abysses’ and that she expects a difficult time as she heads for ‘the heart of the storm.’

The second stanza reverses the imagery of the first. Now the old life in which she had suffered doubts is described as ‘darkened days’ and ‘her wrestling past.’ Again she predicts difficult times ahead as ‘heaven and earth should be leagued against her/ With weapons that hell might form.’ That which is natural ‘heaven and earth’ is resorting to using weapons of hell to fight her. Yet despite that she rejects the ‘forms and fears that of old had fenced her’ and confirms her entry into the ‘heart of the storm.’

The question then is why is the poem entitled Two Women? We know from the ending that she ‘fled to her lover’ but that’s all we know. Is the poem about a woman whose life has split in two? We don’t know if she is leaving a family home or a marital one. If she is leaving a marital home abandoning her husband, and even her children, that might bring the wrath of heaven and earth onto her head. But the other reading is that this is a same-sex relationship. Certainly at this time a woman leaving a home to enter into a romantic liaison with another woman would be regarded as against ‘heaven and earth.’ Maybe the poem is deliberately left vague so that whilst it may be a split life it may also in fact be about two women.

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