The Tuesday Poem: Katherine Mansfield

Sleeping Together

Sleeping together... how tired you were...
How warm our room... how the firelight spread
On walls and ceiling and great white bed!
We spoke in whispers as children do,
And now it was I--and then it was you
Slept a moment, to wake--"My dear,
I'm not at all sleepy," one of us said....

Was it a thousand years ago?
I woke in your arms--you were sound asleep--
And heard the pattering sound of sheep.
Softly I slipped to the floor and crept
To the curtained window, then, while you slept,
I watched the sheep pass by in the snow.

O flock of thoughts with their shepherd Fear
Shivering, desolate, out in the cold,
That entered into my heart to fold!

A thousand years... was it yesterday
When we two children of far away,
Clinging close in the darkness, lay
Sleeping together?... How tired you were....

Katherine Mansfield isn't well known as a poet, but she wrote some good poems. So I thought it might be nice to put one of them up on the blog to celebrate National Poetry Day in New Zealand. This poem is about her disastrous teenage love affair with a young musician called Garnett Trowell who came - as she did - from Wellington. They were both living in London. Katherine became pregnant and the romance was broken up by Garnett's parents. The poem seems to refer to a visit she made to Glasgow where Garnett was playing with a touring opera company. She was hoping that their relationship could be mended, but she hadn't told him about the desperate, spur of the moment marriage she had made in order to provide a legal father for her child ....... The break with Garnett was permanent, but he kept her love letters until he died.


  1. Lovely - sad - thank you, Kathleen. And oh, I was so thrilled yesterday to receive in the mail a copy of your gorgeous KM bio from my (our) publisher!! It looks stupendously good - and to think I got to know you first via Tuesday Poem. Congrats.

  2. Thanks Kathleen, the reading of this poem is enriched by the biographical details.

    There's another KM poem on the Guardian blog that has almost 400 comments! here:

    Congratulations on your book!

  3. Thanks to you both - it's a very scary moment having a new book out! You just don't know what the readers reaction is going to be.

  4. Gorgeous.
    and your bio ...
    ...but he kept her love letters until he died.


  5. I like this poem better than the one on the Guardian site, it seems to have more emotional depth (even before I read the bio provided). And the lines: "I woke in your arms// ...
    And heard the pattering sound of sheep" reminds me of the opening to At the Bay, although this, of course, is sheep in snow.


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