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Rereading Jane Austen's Novels

This poem was originally published in the August 7 & 14, 1989 issue of The New Republic. 

This time round, they didn't seem so comic.

Mama is foolish, dim or dead. Papa's 

a sort of genial, pampered lunatic.

No one thinks of anything but class.

Talk about rural idiocy! Imagine

a life of teas with Mrs. and Miss Bates,

of fancywork and Mr. Elton's sermons!

No wonder lively girls get into states—

no school! no friends! A man might dash to town

just to have his hair cut in the fashion

while she can't walk five miles on her own.

Past twenty, she conceives a modest crush on

some local stuffed shirt in a riding cloak

who's twice her age and maybe half as bright.

At least he's got some land and gets a joke—

but will her jokes survive the wedding night? 

The happy end ends all. Beneath the blotter

the author slides her page, and shakes her head,

and goes to supper—Sunday's joint warmed over,

followed by whist, and family prayers, and bed.