Morris' poem "The Haystack in the Floods" is set shortly after the battle of Poitiers during the Hundred Years' War. Although the odds favored the French, this particular battle was actually won by the English. In the following passage from Morris' poem, Robert and his French lover, Jehane, have been caught by Godmar and his soldiers. In the face of death, Jehane remains strong:
A wicked smile
Wrinkled her face, her lips grew thin,
A long way out she thrust her chin:
"You know that I should strangle you
While you were sleeping; or bite through
Your throat, by God's help — -ah!" she said,
"Lord Jesus, pity your poor maid!
For in such wise they hem me in,
I cannot choose but sin and sin,
Whatever happens: yet I think
They could not make me eat or drink,
And so should I just reach my rest." [lines 88-99]
1. The subject of women and their place in society has come up a number of times in this class. How does Jehane compare with the other female characters that we have encountered?
2. With no true introduction or conclusion, Morris forces the reader to jump right into the middle of a story and then leave his poem speculating about what's to come. Why does he do this? What is the effect of this technique? What is to become of Jehane?
3. While the battle of Poitiers actually occurred, this story is clearly fictitious. How does the combination of a historically accurate setting and an imaginary tale effect our notions of fantasy and realism?
Last modified 28 April 2003