An "osier-isle" or willow island in the Thames near Shepperton, in the evening. When Meredith and his first wife Marie Ellen were still together, they were living in Vine Cottage in Lower Halliford, close to the river here. In one of his finest poems, Sonnet XLVII in "Modern Love," he records an autumn walk along the bank when the swallows were "gathering in the sky" and singing in an island across the water. The couple's relationship has been agonizingly difficult. "But in the largeness of the evening earth," he says, they found a moment of harmony: "Our spirits grew as we went side by side." It was not so much that they related to each other again, but that they both related to the moment: "The hour became her husband and my bride." Still, he feels, the moment was granted by "Love," which had taken so much from them, but now "blessed [their] dearth" by bestowing this precious moment on them. Uplifting as well as unbearably poignant, this is Meredith at his best.

Photograph and text by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use the image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one. [Click on the image for a larger picture.]


Meredith, George. Poems, Vol. I. Memorial Edition, Vol. XXiV. New York: Scribner's, 1910 (the sonnet is on p. 227). Internet Archive. Web. 5 May 2013.

Last modified 5 May 2013