‘Revenge’ by Letitia Elizabeth Landon is a thirty-six line poem contained within one stanza of text. This piece follows a constant rhyming pattern of abab, alternating as the poet saw fit from line to line. Landon further emphasized the pattern of rhyme through the choice to indent every other line. The depth of indention matches the rhyming pairs.
Upon first reading this piece it becomes immediately clear the speaker is holding plenty of negative feelings towards her listener. This person is someone she was in a relationship with but is no longer. He has made a choice that separated the two and for which the speaker now hates him.
One is also able to assume this choice was to begin a relationship with another woman. Although the speaker is deeply upset, she takes some pleasure from the fact she knows the woman is not going to be faithful. The “Revenge” the title speaks of is the future pain the man is going to endure at the hands of his new partner. Although the speaker attempts to raise her spirits by imagining what’s going to happen to him, she is still in pain.
A reader should also take note of the use of alliteration in the lines. For instance, in the fifth and sixth lines, Landon uses “wake,” “wild,” and “witching” in close proximity. She follows this with the words “swear,” “shrine” and “sway.”
Summary of Revenge
The poem begins with the speaker giving permission for her listener, a man she was in a relationship with, to go with another woman. She tells him he is more than welcome to gaze at her and smell her perfume. The speaker has no desire to reconcile with the man. This is all due to his choice to end the relationship. While the speaker was deeply hurt by this choice she now feels avenged.
The woman he has chosen should not be trusted. The speaker knows the woman will soon leave him, causing him the same distress he caused her. When this happens her heart will finally be at peace.
Analysis of Revenge
Ay, gaze upon her rose-wreath’d hair,
And gaze upon her smile;
Seem as you drank the very air
Her breath perfumed the while;
And wake for her the gifted line,
That wild and witching lay,
And swear your heart is as a shrine,
That only holds her sway.
In the first set of lines, the speaker begins by giving her listener permission to “gaze upon” another woman’s “rose-wreath’d hair.” This initially seems like a strange thing for her to do until one realizes the ruined nature of the previous relationship. The listener and the speaker used to be in an intimate relationship, this has come to an emotional end. She is no longer trying to attempt a reconciliation between them. The speaker has written her previous partner off completely and tells him he is welcome to leave with his new partner.
While her pleasure at his new relationship is feigned, she is intent on ending all association with this person. She tells him that he should go ahead and breathe in the new woman’s perfume and “swear” his heart for her as a “shrine.”
‘Tis well: I am revenged at last;—
Mark you that scornful cheek,—
The eye averted as you pass’d,
Spoke more than words could speak.
Ay, now by all the bitter tears
That I have shed for thee,—
The racking doubts, the burning fears,—
Avenged they well may be—
By the nights pass’d in sleepless care,
The days of endless woe;
In the second stanza, the reader might be surprised by the turn in the speaker’s tone. She informs her listener that she is “revenged at last.” It has been a long time since the two broke up and finally, she feels as if she can move on. It is “well” that he has made the choice to go with this particular woman as soon he will experience exactly what the speaker did. The woman he has chosen is someone the speaker does not believe with be faithful.
She expects that in the near future he will have to deal with the “eye averted” and “that scornful cheek.” The speaker knows well what it feels like to be on the receiving end of such emotion. Landon’s narrator goes on to state that everything she felt and cried over are “Avenged.” They will be made up for with his future “days of endless woe.”
All that you taught my heart to bear,
All that yourself will know.
I would not wish to see you laid
Within an early tomb;
I should forget how you betray’d,
And only weep your doom:
But this is fitting punishment,
To live and love in vain,—
O my wrung heart, be thou content,
And feed upon his pain.
In the next set of lines, the speaker states that she and he will now have something common. Their hearts will have learned to “bear” great weight of lost love. The following lines speak on how any other punishment, even death, would not make her happy. It is the balancing of the emotional scales she wants the most.
If he did die, rather than become as emotionally scarred as she is, the speaker fears she might “weep [his] doom.” This way though, her heart will be “content” as it feels “his pain.”
Go thou and watch her lightest sigh,—
Thine own it will not be;
And bask beneath her sunny eye,—
It will not turn on thee.
‘Tis well: the rack, the chain, the wheel,
Far better hadst thou proved;
Ev’n I could almost pity feel,
For thou art not beloved.
The final set of lines contains the speaker’s last dismissal of her old partner. She tells him that he is free to “Go” to his new woman and “watch her…” Everything she does will entrance him, but she will not belong to him. The speaker hopes the man will completely and fully dedicate himself to her gaze which will “not turn on” him. His new partner will never feel about him and the speaker did.
In these final lines, the speaker makes an allusion to medieval forms of punishment. She mentions the “rack, the chain, the wheel.” Her anger is so deep and constant that she knows she wouldn’t be content with him enduring any of these pains.
The last lines speak on the hurt she knows he is going to experience. Because she has felt everything in his future, she “almost” feels pity for him. He is not “beloved” as he believes himself to be. This is another allusion to the way the speaker felt before their relationship ended. It is likely she felt they were a strong, dedicated couple, but that wasn’t the case.