I chose the poem “Love Impeached” by W.H. Davies in the No. 1 edition of The Owl. The Owl was a conservative literary journal in the early-mid 1900s, and the edition I chose was published in 1919 London. The journal is composed of modern poems with a few images scattered throughout. These images typically have smaller poems written on them and relate to their neighboring poems by a common theme.
My immediate reaction to “Love Impeached” was of horror; what began as innocent poem morphed into the seemingly abusive relationship between a female and male character. However, the poem is expressing the loving relationship between a mother and her infant son. The title “Love Impeached” makes me suspect the intentional misconception at the beginning of the poem. Am I supposed to read this as an accusation of the presupposed “love?” The presumed lover appears both needy and abusive—unsatisfied with her attention and physically abusing her—but once his age and relationship to her is revealed, the context of the poem immediately changes.
On the following page is an image of a beggar holding a child and a woman walking towards the front door of a house but reaching back towards the two. This poem is also about a mother and her child, but unlike “Love Impeached” the mother, being careless as the title “Careless Lady” suggests, relinquishes her baby to the beggar. Her regret or hesitation to give him up is evident by her stance: while she is walking in the right direction, she is reaching back towards her baby on the left. However, her motives for giving him the baby is never disclosed.
The juxtaposition of the two opposing poems makes “Love Impeached” all the more powerful. The mother, denied sleep and pestered with the baby’s bothersome habits, loves him despite these annoyances. This relationship is a stark contrast to the relationship between the “careless lady” and her child.