Themes in The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter

This poem takes the form of a letter from a lonely wife to her husband who has been away for work for five months. The poem is concerned with love between a husband and wife that is complicated by the distance that now separates them. This distance causes the narrator feel isolated and lonely as she awaits her husband’s return. The narrator muses on her childhood days and the wedding to her husband to reveal themes of memory and recollection.

Themes Examples in The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter:

Text of the Poem 1

"They hurt me. I grow older..."   (Text of the Poem)

It pains the speaker to see the symbols of time passing. In this stanza, we're able to definitively establish a timeline for the speaker, placing her husband's departure in March, five months before August, when summer gives way to fall. In this time, two seasons have passed; a garden has grown; and the speaker has spent much time staring at the river, awaiting her husband's return. It's unclear if he'll ever come back.