From a Window
Up here, with June, the sycamore throws
Across the window a whispering screen;
I shall miss the sycamore more, I suppose,
Than anything else on this earth that is out in green.
But I mean to go through the door without fear,
Not caring much what happens here
When I’m away:—
How green the screen is across the panes
Or who goes laughing along the lanes
With my old lover all summer day.
By Charlotte Mew
The poem begins by locating the poet both in place and time; the high elevation suggests an oracular tone which pervades the poem. The poet is contemplating not just leaving the house or building but also the loss of life- that is to say death itself.
I seem to recall a final interview of the playwright Dennis Potter talking in a moving way about a tree in blossom and the poignant feelings this aroused in him. The poem evoked his memory.
In Mew’s poem however the tree appears as a green screen which might conceivably fill an entire window where foliage whispering might suggest some maternal comforting. Indeed it becomes a kind of screen memory, that is a distorted memory, generally of a visual rather than verbal nature, deriving from childhood. The term was coined by Sigmund Freud, .
Mew talks about not caring much about what happens when she is away. It seems that the word “much” suggests that actually, largely unconsciously, she actually really does care about what happens when she leaves. Indeed the real difficulty in leaving is about what is left behind and perhaps who is left behind doing exactly what. The separation involves a felt loss of control. Her previous lover is laughing along the lanes and perhaps there might be some faint suggestion of the poet feeling perhaps jeered at as well. There is a beautiful melancholy feel to the internal rhythms of the line “How green the screen is across the panes” and the now obvious pane/pain pairing.
This programme is moving about Charlotte Mew and worth a listen-