‘Verses Written on her Death-Bed at Bath’ by Mary Monck, as the title says, is a poem that talks about a wife’s last words to her dearest husband. The poem captures her fleeting emotions and dying wishes that she unfolds in her versification. Though there is only a request not to mourn her death in the end, the verse also presents her true love for the husband. The request comes from a heart that loves. The wife can’t see the eyes that have been giving her inspiration for a long time, reddened with grief. All she wants, a rejoicing epilogue of her life written in the book of love.
Summary of Verses Written on her Death-Bed at Bath
‘Verses Written on her Death-Bed at Bath’ by Mary Monck is a verse-letter. The poet dedicated it to her husband, residing in London. Whereas, the poet was at Bath and counting her lonely last days. The fear of death as well as the satisfaction of life is there in her mind. She knows she can’t surpass the oblivion but the feeling of love holds her back in her beloved husband’s thoughts. The more she thinks about him the more she becomes weak at heart. The thoughts of her grieving husband make her feel sad at the time of parting. For this reason, she implores her husband not to grieve her death. She requests him, “Rather rejoice to see me sake off life/ And die as I’ve lived, thy faithful wife.” On this sweet and brilliant note, she draws a curtain over her thoughts.
Structure of Verses Written on her Death-Bed at Bath
‘Verses Written on her Death-Bed at Bath’ by Mary Monck is 22 lines long. The poet doesn’t use a stanza division in this poem. However, each section of the poem contains a four-line unit that forms a rhyming quatrain. The poet employs closed couplet form and regular rhyme scheme for expressing her love to her husband through this verse. Moreover, the last two lines which contain the main idea of the poem can be taken as a couplet that also has a regular rhyming pattern. However, the rhyme scheme of the poem is AABB and it goes on like this. There is only one imperfect rhyme in the poem that is in the third and fourth lines. Here, “friends” and “send” don’t rhyme.
Literary Devices in Verses Written on her Death-Bed at Bath
‘Verses Written on her Death-Bed at Bath’ by Mary Monck begins with an apostrophe. Here, “thou” is none other than the poet’s husband to whom the poet dedicated this poem written on her death-bed. However, the poet uses several metaphors and personal metaphors in the poem. Likewise, in the second line, the poet metaphorically compares her husband to all her earthly joy. In the third line, the superlatives such as “tend’rest” and “best” makes this line an example of hyperbole. However, the hyperbolic expression isn’t used for mere exaggeration. It is for the sake of emphasis the poet’s love for her husband. Moreover, there is an antithesis in the fourth line of the poem.
Apart from that, the poet also uses personification to compare death to a living being. By using the word, “face” in the eighth line the poet refers to the personified death. It is an example of synecdoche. In “all life’s fleeting joys are vain”, there are a personal metaphor and an epigram as well. However, there is a reference to heaven in the symbol of the sky, in the 16th line. And the last two lines of the poem contain a paradox.
Analysis of Verses Written on her Death-Bed at Bath
THOU, who dost all my worldly thoughts employ,
Thou pleasing source of all my earthly joy:
Thou tend’rest husband, and thou best of friends,
To thee this first, this last adieu I send.
‘Verses Written on her Death-Bed at Bath’ by Mary Monck introduces the poet and husband, dedicating whom the poet is writing this verse, in the first quatrain. In the first two lines, the poet refers to her husband as a source of joy in her life. In her worldly journey, there are only the husband’s thoughts in her mind. That is the magnitude of her love for her husband. However, the epithets used to glorify her husband make it clear that the person wasn’t a mere patriarch. He was tender in his duties for the wife as well as stood by her as a best friend. For this reason, being so close to death, she writes this poem for the first time as the “last adieu” to her husband.
At length the conqu’ror death asserts his right,
And will for ever veil me from thy sight.
He wooes me to him with a chearful grace;
And not one terror clouds his meagre face.
In the second quatrain of ‘Verses Written on her Death-Bed at Bath’, “death” as a conqueror asserts his right on the poet’s life. The tone present in this section, neither projects fear nor frustration with death. The person rather calmly accepts the abstract with a sigh. The sigh is natural as it speaks of the love that the poet has in her heart. However, in this section, the poet surprisingly compares death to a suitor. He is veiling her husband’s face in her mind’s eyes and wooing the poet with his cheerful grace. He has come to her, not for her hands, but her life. Moreover, the poet says, “not one terror clouds his meagre eyes” as death has confidence in what he does. There is no way out when it looks at a person with his conquering eyes.
He promises a lasting rest from pain;
And shews that all life’s fleeting joys are vain.
Th’ eternal scenes of heav’n he sets in view,
And tells me that no other joys are true.
In this section of ‘Verses Written on her Death-Bed at Bath’, the poet says how death convinces her to accept it. Here, the poet portrays the diabolic nature of death. In the poem, death shows the poet the eternal joys in heaven. But, he doesn’t tell the poet what she is going to lose. Her husband won’t be there to console her after her death. However, the last line of this section is in contrast with the second line of the poem. Her husband is the source of her “earthly joy” but death is showing her the joys in heaven. In this way, the poet presents her inner dilemma while she is on her death-bed.
But love, fond love, would yet resist his pow’r;
Would fain awhile defer the parting hour:
He brings thy mourning image to my eyes,
And would obstruct my journey to the skies.
In this quatrain of ‘Verses Written on her Death-Bed at Bath’, the poet places the eternal quality of love over the impermanence of death. For this reason, the poet says that only love can resist the power of death and it will soothe her in the “parting hour”. The calm acceptance of death can’t console a soul but love can. However, in the last two lines, the poet refers to the image of her loving husband that obstructs her migration to heaven. It is the most powerful mortal bond that none can resist even in the time of death.
But say, thou dearest, thou unwearied friend;
Say, should’st thou grieve to see my sorrows end?
Thou know’st a painful pilgrimage I’ve past ;
And should’st thou grieve that rest is come at last?
In this quatrain of ‘Verses Written on her Death-Bed at Bath’, the poet consoles her husband in a poetic manner. According to the poet, by death, her mortal sorrows will end and she will rest in peace in heaven. She has gone through many hardships both physically and mentally. Here, the poet uses the metaphor of “pilgrimage” to refer to her life’s arduous journey. However, at last, the poet requests her husband not to be sad if she dies in near future.
Rather rejoice to see me shake off life,
And die as I have liv’d, thy faithful wife.
In the last couplet of ‘Verses Written on her Death-Bed at Bath’, the speaker refers to faithfulness as a wife to her husband. She is always constant in her duties as she was in the past. Moreover, even on her death-bed, she is committed to her dear husband. His tears make her unhappy. So, she wants her husband to “rejoice” the moment and cherish the love between him and the poet. Then, she can peacefully migrate to nonentity.
Historical Context of Verses Written on her Death-Bed at Bath
‘Verses Written on her Death-Bed at Bath’ is a beautiful poem that talks about how much Mary Monck loved her husband. Mary Monck (1677-1715) was the first wife of George Monck of St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. While she was on her death-bed in 1715, she composed this verse for her husband. She wrote several other poems too and those were published after her death. However, ‘Verses Written on her Death-Bed at Bath’ was published shortly after her death under the title “Marinda. Poems and Translations upon several occasions, London” in 1716.
Like ‘Verses Written on her Death-Bed at Bath’ by Mary Monck, the following poems also talk about the love of a poet for her beloved.
- A Letter to her Husband, absent upon Publick employment by Anne Bradstreet – Here, Anne Bradstreet was in a similar condition and dedicated this verse to her husband.
- Sonnet 43: How do I love thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning – Here, Elizabeth Barret Browning talks about her love for Robert Browning, her beloved husband.
- Anne Hathaway by Carol Ann Duffy – Here, Carol Ann Duffy by referring to William Shakespeare‘s wife, presents her passion for her beloved.
- The Heat of Autumn by Jane Hirshfield – In this one of the best autumn poems, Jane Hirshfield compares an innocent wife’s love to the heat of autumn.
You can read about Best Love Poems for Him here.