A Year’s Spinning

Table of contents

1. A Year’s Spinning

He listened at the porch that day,
To hear the wheel go on, and on;
And then it stopped—ran back away—
While through the door he brought the sun.
But now my spinning is all done.
He sate 6 beside me, with an oath
That love ne'er ended, once begun.
I smiled—believing for us both,
What was the truth for only one.
And now my spinning is all done.
My mother cursed me that I heard
A young man's wooing as I spun.
Thanks, cruel mother, for that word,—
For I have, since, a harder known!
And now my spinning is all done.
I thought—O God!—my first-born's cry
Both voices to mine ear would drown.
I listened in mine agony—
It was the silence made me groan!
And now my spinning is all done.
Bury me 'twixt my mother's grave,
(Who cursed me on her death-bed lone)
And my dead baby's, (God it save!)
Who, not to bless me, would not moan.
And now my spinning is all done.
A stone upon my heart and head,
But no name written on the stone! 27
Sweet neighbors, whisper low instead,
"This sinner was a loving one—
And now her spinning is all done."
And let the door ajar remain,
In case he should pass by anon;
And leave the wheel out very plain,—
That he, when passing in the sun,
May see the spinning is all done.

2. Note on the text

First published in Blackwood's as "Maud's Spinning" in October, 1846, this dramatic monologue treats the figure of the fallen woman that EBB would later develop at much greater length in her portrait of Marian Erle in Aurora Leigh (1856). Like the earlier work "Bertha in the Lane" (1844) and the later work "Void in Law" in Last Poems (1862), it draws on the ballad tradition, in which the figure of the abandoned or betrayed woman frequently appears. In medieval literature, the Virgin Mary is associated with the female domestic chores of spinning and weaving. The spinning also suggests approaching death by recalling the classical myth of the three Fates: Clotho, carrying a spindle, spins out the thread of an individual's life; Lachesis determines its destined length; and Atropos, carrying shears, cuts the thread. Criticism: Stott in Avery and Stott (2003).

3. Explanatory Notes

sate. sat.

stone headstone on a grave.

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Date: 07-Mar-2009
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