'Cousin Kate' - Imagery, symbolism and themes
Imagery and symbolism
Transience - The speaker claims that the lord considered her as a ‘plaything' (line 12) whom he could treat how he liked without any regard for her feelings. Much like the ‘silken knot' (line 12) he wore around his neck (a cravat or tie), he treated her as a fashion accessory he could use and then cast away, rather than as an individual with her own needs.
Glove - The speaker recognises that the lord ‘changed me like a glove' (line 13). He used her and moulded her into a shape that suited him and then, like a glove that no longer pleases, dispensed with her completely. A glove is an intimate and personal object that fits itself around its user. By describing herself as a glove, the speaker acknowledges that she lost sight of her own needs and desires in an attempt to please and suit the lord.
More on gloves: Gloves often appears as a symbol of lost innocence in 19th century literature and art, eg. in Holman Hunt's The Awakening Conscience.
Dove - The speaker laments that, because of the lord's treatment of her, all she can now do is ‘moan'. She recognises that instead of existing in this mournful state, she ‘might have been a dove' (lines 15, 16)
In Cousin Kate, the dove image draws on these ideas of hope and fulfilment and is a symbol of purity that stands in direct contrast to the contaminated state the speaker finds herself as she describes herself as ‘an unclean thing' (line 15). However, she acknowledges that the tenderness associated with the dove is no match for Kate's ‘stronger wing'.
Entrapment – Like a hunter, the lord ‘f[ound]' the speaker ‘out', ‘lured' her, then ‘chose' his next victim in Kate, whom he ‘watched', then picked up (‘lifted') and ‘bound'. Both women are referred to as birds, with Kate seeming to be trussed and bound by her fine clothes and wedding ring.
Coronet - In the last verse, the speaker demonstrates her pride in her son when she tells him, ‘Your father would give lands for one / To wear his coronet'. A coronet is a small crown worn by members of the nobility and varying in form according to rank, so it represents his title. The fact that it is passed from father to son reflects the values of a society in which men were more highly valued and praised than women. By suggesting that the lord would ‘give lands' for a legitimate son to whom he could pass on his wealth, his titles and his standing in society demonstrates the importance of inheritance and ongoing power for the nobility.
Investigating imagery and symbolism
- What do you associate with the idea of doves?
- Why do you think that the speaker tells her cousin, ‘You had the stronger wing'?
- Do you think that she is right?
- How does the imagery contribute towards your feelings for the speaker?
- Does her description of herself as a ‘plaything' increase your sense of sympathy for her plight?
Many Victorians considered marriage to be at the centre of a stable society. It was widely believed that a happy family contributed to the well-being of the country. In Cousin Kate, the foundations of marriage are shown to be less based on love than on the greed of the male. It seems that he only marries Kate because she refuses to have an affair with him as the speaker had done. The speaker resents this and feels angry that she had been used and then cast aside.
In the last stanza, the speaker claims that, despite all her clothes and her ‘wedding-ring', Kate remains unhappy since she has no children. Rather than accepting the romantic idea that marriage led to happiness and contentment, the speaker recognises that the cares of a married life are still difficult to deal with.
The speaker suggests that, because Kate was ‘so good and pure' and did not allow the lord to seduce her away, he ‘bound' her ‘with his ring' (lines 25-6). The word ‘bound' indicates being confined within certain boundaries or limitations. By describing a wedding ring as something that ‘bound' Kate, the speaker depicts marriage as a trap or a prison. Certainly, she suggests that being married to the lord would be like being imprisoned in a lifestyle in which any individual choice was taken away.
- Think about the poem's presentation of marriage in relation to Victorian ideology
- Do you find anything surprising about this presentation?
- English Standard Version
- King James Version
1But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. 2The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, 4and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen. 6At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. 8Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. 9But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. 10He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. 11And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore. 13In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. 14In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. 15Then God said to Noah, 16Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons' wives with you. 17Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh - birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth - that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth. 18So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him. 19Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark. 20Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.
1And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged; 2The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained; 3And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated. 4And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. 5And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen. 6And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made: 7And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. 8Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; 9But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark. 10And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; 11And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. 12And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more. 13And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry. 14And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried. 15And God spake unto Noah, saying, 16Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives with thee. 17Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth. 18And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him: 19Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark. 20And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21And the LORD smelled a sweet savor; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. 22While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
- English Standard Version
- King James Version
1In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight. 4Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9And do not presume to say to yourselves, We have Abraham as our father, for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. 13Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me? 15But Jesus answered him, Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he consented. 16And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17and behold, a voice from heaven said, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.
1In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. 5Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 6And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. 7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 9And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 11I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 12Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. 13Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. 14But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? 15And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. 16And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Doves are used in the Bible to represent
1. Reconciliation and peace
2. The Holy Spirit.
The Christian Bible consists of the Old Testament scriptures inherited from Judaism, together with the New Testament, drawn from writings produced from c.40-125CE, which describe the life of Jesus and the establishment of the Christian church.
1. Large ship built by Noah at the instruction of God. 2. Portable wooden box overlaid with gold which contained the Tablets of the Law and symbolised the presence of God with the people of Israel.
The Bible describes how, in the time of Noah, God caused it to rain perpetually for forty days and nights as a punishment for human wickedness. Noah had been told by God to build an ark, and collect one set of each species of living creature.
The third person of the Trinity (God in three persons). Came upon the disciples at Pentecost after Jesus had ascended in to heaven.
The immersion in or pouring over of water, in the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to signify the washing away of away of sin. Baptism in Christian churches marks the acceptance of the baptised child or adult into the church.
The name given to the man believed by Christians to be the Son of God. Also given the title Christ, meaning 'anointed one' or Messiah. His life is recorded most fully in the Four Gospels.