Monday, February 13, 2017

Alternative Valentine

While leafing through poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay, I stumbled across her exquisite 1917 poem Witch-Wife:

She is neither pink nor pale,
And she never will be all mine;
She learned her hands in a fairy-tale,
And her mouth on a valentine.

She has more hair than she needs;
In the sun 'tis a woe to me!
And her voice is a string of colored beads,
Or steps leading into the sea.

She loves me all that she can,
And her ways to my ways resign;
But she was not made for any man,
And she never will be all mine.

Looking for an image online, I found Julian Peters' wonderful comic. How fitting both are for this Valentine time of year.

As I read through the poem, prior to finding the image, I pictured the Witch-Wife differently. The phrase But she was not made for any man left me with the question, Who was she made for? Was it another woman? Was it for her own strong self? Was it for multiple partners?

My personal definition of the title, Witch-Wife, gave me pause to lean toward the second ~ she was made for her own strong self. Being a witch means having developed powers that may range from using healing herbs to having animal familiars to understanding the movements of the stars and seasons. Or an entire host of other knowledge ranging from the commonplace to the arcane. Fairy tales are not for the faint-hearted and have woven into their telling truths about human actions and interactions. And she learned her hands in a fairy-tale.

She clearly was made for her strong self with the phrase And she never will be all mine. Although I like Julian Peters' comic image, I believe the point was not that she had many men. Rather that she belonged to herself and not to any man.

In modern language, we use the term wife to mean a female spouse. So I decided to look up the origin of the word. It comes from Old English meaning woman and some Germanic derivatives with uncertain origin. In Dutch wijf slangily means girl or babe, having softened from an earlier meaning of bitch. Although, again, there I would go with that final term being added to my definition of witch.... and end up with a knowledgeable badass woman! One incredible Valentine!!

What images struck you as you read Witch-Wife? Do you like the version depicted in the comic image? Are you a wife? By what definition? Are you a witch? How do you define that? Do you know/have a wife? How do you define her? Would she agree with your definition? Is the wife you are/know/have a Witch-Wife? How do you know?

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