'They Flee From Me'
The poet directly asserts that the acquaintance to whom the poem is about once actively sought his company, yet now avoids him. The acquaintance had formerly been exposed in his chamber, and presented as a mild, disciplined and docile character; but is now unpredictable and has forgotten their former intimacy. The relationship has been unsafe for the acquaintance on occasion.
The danger has been in being close to the poet, eating together. The change now sees the acquaintance looking further abroad in search of new interests. The poet is grateful that this was not the situation in the past; the relationship has been at least twenty times better.
Wearing thin clothing, after a pleasant show, ‘her’ loose dress fell from her shoulders. She took the poet in her arms and kissed him tenderly. She then asked him directly if he was happy.
He recalls that this was not a dream as he was fully awake. He next notes that everything has now changed because of his mild nature, to a cruel situation of his abandonment.
He is now released from her for decency’s sake, and she is released to allow a new encounter. However, he questions, has he has been treated badly, what is the reader’s view? What is ‘she’ now worthy of?
The poem employs the technique of rime royal, used most notably by Geoffrey Chaucer. The technique consists of a seven-line structure, using iambic pentameter with the rhyme scheme ABABBCC. There are two ways in which the septet is structured: the tercet and two couplets (ABA, BB, CC) and the quatrain and tercet (ABAB, BCC). ‘They Flee From Me’ uses both structures within its 21 lines: the tercet and couplets in lines 1-7 and the quatrain and tercet for lines 8-14 and 15-21. The poem presents three key ideas which are enhanced by this structure: that the poet is now rejected, that he was once favored and that there is a question as to how his lover should fare...