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Locksley Hall
A Poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) 
A Study Guide
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Type of Work
Setting
Characters
Theme
End Rhyme
Internal Rhyme
Meter
Summary of the Poem
Poem Text and Notes
Tone
Figures of Speech
Tennyson's Prescience
Revelations About Speaker
Study Questions
Writing Topics
Tennyson Biography
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Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings... 2010
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Type of Work and Publication Year

.......Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Locksley Hall" is a dramatic monologue centering on unrequited love. A dramatic monologue is a poem that presents a moment in which a narrator/speaker discusses a topic and, in so doing, reveals his personal feelings to a listener. Only the narrator talksu0097hence the term monologue, meaning "single (mono) discourse (logue)." During his discourse, the speaker intentionally or unintentionally reveals information about himself.  Edward Moxon published the poem in London in 1842 as part of a two-volume collection of Tennyson's verse.

Setting

.......The poem is set in England at a building (Locksley Hall) overlooking the sea.

Characters

Soldier: The poem's speaker. 
Amy: Woman who rejected the soldier. 
Amy's Husband: Man whose character the speaker disparages. 
Amy's Parents: Apparent taskmasters who opposed Amy's relationship with the soldier. 
Other Soldiers: Comrades of the poem's speaker.

Theme

.......The theme of the poem is the bitterness of unrequited love. The speaker first recalls the happy times at Locksley Hall with Amy, the woman he loved. But after Amy left him, he became extremely bitter and angry. He heaps curses on her and the man she chose. He ends the poem by hoping that a storm destroys Locksley Hall. 

End Rhyme

.......Tennyson wrote the poem entirely in couplets. A couplet consists of two successive lines with end rhyme. The type of end rhyme used throughout the poem is masculine rather than feminine. In masculine rhyme, only the final syllable of a line rhymes with the final syllable of another line. In feminine rhyme, the final two syllables of a line rhyme with the final two syllables of another line. 

Internal Rhyme

.......Tennyson also included occasional internal rhyme in the poem, as in the following lines.

Did I look on great Orion sloping slowly to the West. (line 8)

Let it fall on Locksley Hall, with rain or hail, or fire or snow (line 193)

Meter

.......The meter is of the poem is trochaic octameter. The eighth foot is catalectic. 
.......Trochaic is an adjective derived from the term trochee. A trochee is a pair of syllables, the first one accented and the second one unaccented. Examples of trochees are running, happy, thesis, easy, throw it. A trochee forms what is called a foot. Running, throw it, and the other examples each make up a foot. 
.......Octameter consists of a line of poetry with eight feet. The prefix -oct comes from a Greek word meaning eight. Thus, an octagon is a figure with eight sides, an octet is a group with eight people, and an octopus is a sea creature with eight arms. 
.......Catalectic is an adjective referring to an incomplete foot. 
.......The first two lines of u0093Locksley Hallu0094 demonstrate trochaic octameter with a catalectic foot.

.......1....................2.................3.............4................5.................6..............7............8
COM rades,..|..LEAVE me..|..HERE a..|..LIT tle,..|..WHILE as..|..YET 'tis..|..EAR ly..|..MORN:

.......1...................2..................3.....................4.................5................6...............7.............8
LEAVE me..|..HERE, and..|..WHEN you..|..WANT me,..|..SOUND u..|..PON the..|..BU gle-..|..HORN.

Notice that the last foot of each line has only one syllable and is therefore incomplete (catalectic).

Summary

.......Early one morning, a soldier asks his comrades to leave him at Locksley Hall, an estate on an eminence near the sea. In his youth, he spent many a night at the hall gazing out a window at stars, in particular those in the constellation Orion and in the Pleiades cluster. During the day, he often wandered the beach while thinking of the promises of the future.
.......u0093In the Spring,u0094 the knight says, u0093a young man's fancy turns lightly to thoughts of loveu0094 (line 20). And so it was with him when he told his cousin Amy that u0093all the current of my being sets to theeu0094 (line 24). And she told him, u0093I have loved thee longu0094 (line 30). They spent many mornings on the moorland listening to the sounds of nature, and they passed many evenings by the sea watching the ships go by. 
.......Now she is out of his life, for she was a u0093Puppet to a father's threat, and servile to a shrewish tongue.u0094 She lowered herself and married a man unworthy of her. Consequently, the speaker says, her husband's u0093nature will have weight to drag thee downu0094 (line 48). He will treat her little better than his dog or his horse. And she will have to be there to humor him in his moods. But u0093I had loved thee more than ever wife was lovedu0094 (line 64) says the speaker.
.......The speaker berates Amy for forsaking him, saying she apparently never truly loved him. And the day will come when her husband will die, but not before she has a  child who will become the center of her attention. When her child grows, she will lecture it with a u0093hoard of maximsu0094 (line 94) telling the child to be chary of her feelings (as Amy's own parents did). Such feelings could be dangerous.
.......u0093What is that which I should do?u0094 (line 99), the speaker asks.
.......He would have been content to fall in battle to his enemies. Now, it would be wonderful if he could return to his days of youthful excitement, when he felt alive.
.......The soldier ponders for a moment about the world and the future, then hears the bugle call of his men coming for him and says, u0093I am shamed thro' all my nature to have loved so slight a thingu0094 (line 148). He also says, u0093Woman is the lesser man, and all thy passions, match'd with mine, / Are as moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wineu0097" (lines 151-152).
.......The soldier dreams of going to a far-off land in the Orient with no traders and no ships with European flags. There, he would wed a savage woman who would bear him u0093duskyu0094 children (line 168) who could u0093whistle back the parrot's call, and leap the rainbows of the brooksu0094 (line 171). But he relents and says he does not really prefer a rude and barbarous life.
.......He bids farewell to Locksley Hall, hoping that that a thunderbolt will strike it down.
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Text of the Poem

Comrades, leave me here a little, while as yet 't is early morn:
Leave me here, and when you want me, sound upon the bugle-horn.

'Tis the place, and all around it, as of old, the curlews call,
Dreary gleams about the moorland flying over Locksley Hall;

Locksley Hall, that in the distance overlooks the sandy tracts,
And the hollow ocean-ridges roaring into cataracts.

Many a night from yonder ivied casement, ere I went to rest,
Did I look on great Orion sloping slowly to the West.

Many a night I saw the Pleiades, rising thro' the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.......................................10

Here about the beach I wander'd, nourishing a youth sublime
With the fairy tales of science, and the long result of Time;

When the centuries behind me like a fruitful land reposed;
When I clung to all the present for the promise that it closed:

When I dipt into the future far as human eye could see;
Saw the Vision of the world and all the wonder that would be.u0097

In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin's breast;
In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;

In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish'd dove;
In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.........................20

Then her cheek was pale and thinner than should be for one so young,
And her eyes on all my motions with a mute observance hung.

And I said, "My cousin Amy, speak, and speak the truth to me,
Trust me, cousin, all the current of my being sets to thee."

On her pallid cheek and forehead came a colour and a light,
As I have seen the rosy red flushing in the northern night.

And she turn'du0097her bosom shaken with a sudden storm of sighsu0097
All the spirit deeply dawning in the dark of hazel eyesu0097

Saying, "I have hid my feelings, fearing they should do me wrong";
Saying, "Dost thou love me, cousin?" weeping, "I have loved thee long.".................30

Love took up the glass of Time, and turn'd it in his glowing hands;
Every moment, lightly shaken, ran itself in golden sands.

Love took up the harp of Life, and smote on all the chords with might;
Smote the chord of Self, that, trembling, pass'd in music out of sight.

Many a morning on the moorland did we hear the copses ring,
And her whisper throng'd my pulses with the fulness of the Spring.

Many an evening by the waters did we watch the stately ships,
And our spirits rush'd together at the touching of the lips.

O my cousin, shallow-hearted! O my Amy, mine no more!
O the dreary, dreary moorland! O the barren, barren shore!.....................................40

Falser than all fancy fathoms, falser than all songs have sung,
Puppet to a father's threat, and servile to a shrewish tongue!

Is it well to wish thee happy?u0097having known meu0097to decline
On a range of lower feelings and a narrower heart than mine!

Yet it shall be; thou shalt lower to his level day by day,
What is fine within thee growing coarse to sympathize with clay.

As the husband is, the wife is: thou art mated with a clown,
And the grossness of his nature will have weight to drag thee down.

He will hold thee, when his passion shall have spent its novel force,
Something better than his dog, a little dearer than his horse....................................50

What is this? his eyes are heavy; think not they are glazed with wine.
Go to him, it is thy duty, kiss him, take his hand in thine.

It may be my lord is weary, that his brain is overwrought:
Soothe him with thy finer fancies, touch him with thy lighter thought.

He will answer to the purpose, easy things to understandu0097
Better thou wert dead before me, tho' I slew thee with my hand!

Better thou and I were lying, hidden from the heart's disgrace,
Roll'd in one another's arms, and silent in a last embrace.

Cursed be the social wants that sin against the strength of youth!
Cursed be the social lies that warp us from the living truth!.......................................60

Cursed be the sickly forms that err from honest Nature's rule!
Cursed be the gold that gilds the straiten'd forehead of the fool!

Wellu0097't is well that I should bluster!u0097Hadst thou less unworthy provedu0097
Would to Godu0097for I had loved thee more than ever wife was loved.

Am I mad, that I should cherish that which bears but bitter fruit?
I will pluck it from my bosom, tho' my heart be at the root.

Never, tho' my mortal summers to such length of years should come
As the many-winter'd crow that leads the clanging rookery home.

Where is comfort? in division of the records of the mind?
Can I part her from herself, and love her, as I knew her, kind?....................................70

I remember one that perish'd; sweetly did she speak and move;
Such a one do I remember, whom to look at was to love.

Can I think of her as dead, and love her for the love she bore?
Nou0097she never loved me truly; love is love for evermore.

Comfort? comfort scorn'd of devils! this is truth the poet sings,
That a sorrow's crown of sorrow is remembering happier things.

Drug thy memories, lest thou learn it, lest thy heart be put to proof,
In the dead unhappy night, and when the rain is on the roof.

Like a dog, he hunts in dreams, and thou art staring at the wall,
Where the dying night-lamp flickers, and the shadows rise and fall.............................80

Then a hand shall pass before thee, pointing to his drunken sleep,
To thy widow'd marriage-pillows, to the tears that thou wilt weep.

Thou shalt hear the "Never, never," whisper'd by the phantom years,
And a song from out the distance in the ringing of thine ears;

And an eye shall vex thee, looking ancient kindness on thy pain.
Turn thee, turn thee on thy pillow; get thee to thy rest again.

Nay, but Nature brings thee solace; for a tender voice will cry.
'Tis a purer life than thine, a lip to drain thy trouble dry.

Baby lips will laugh me down; my latest rival brings thee rest.
Baby fingers, waxen touches, press me from the mother's breast...............................90

O, the child too clothes the father with a dearness not his due.
Half is thine and half is his: it will be worthy of the two.

O, I see thee old and formal, fitted to thy petty part,
With a little hoard of maxims preaching down a daughter's heart.

"They were dangerous guides the feelingsu0097she herself was not exemptu0097
Truly, she herself had suffer'd"u0097Perish in thy self-contempt!

Overlive itu0097lower yetu0097be happy! wherefore should I care?
I myself must mix with action, lest I wither by despair.

What is that which I should turn to, lighting upon days like these?
Every door is barr'd with gold, and opens but to golden keys........................................100

Every gate is throng'd with suitors, all the markets overflow.
I have but an angry fancy; what is that which I should do?

I had been content to perish, falling on the foeman's ground,
When the ranks are roll'd in vapour, and the winds are laid with sound.

But the jingling of the guinea helps the hurt that Honour feels,
And the nations do but murmur, snarling at each other's heels.

Can I but relive in sadness? I will turn that earlier page.
Hide me from my deep emotion, O thou wondrous Mother-Age!

Make me feel the wild pulsation that I felt before the strife,
When I heard my days before me, and the tumult of my life;.........................................110

Yearning for the large excitement that the coming years would yield,
Eager-hearted as a boy when first he leaves his father's field,

And at night along the dusky highway near and nearer drawn,
Sees in heaven the light of London flaring like a dreary dawn;

And his spirit leaps within him to be gone before him then,
Underneath the light he looks at, in among the throngs of men:

Men, my brothers, men the workers, ever reaping something new:
That which they have done but earnest of the things that they shall do:

For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;.......................................120

Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales;

Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly dew
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue;

Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro' the thunder-storm;

Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.

There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.................................................130

So I triumph'd ere my passion sweeping thro' me left me dry,
Left me with the palsied heart, and left me with the jaundiced eye;

Eye, to which all order festers, all things here are out of joint:
Science moves, but slowly, slowly, creeping on from point to point:

Slowly comes a hungry people, as a lion, creeping nigher,
Glares at one that nods and winks behind a slowly-dying fire.

Yet I doubt not thro' the ages one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widen'd with the process of the suns.

What is that to him that reaps not harvest of his youthful joys,
Tho' the deep heart of existence beat for ever like a boy's?.............................................140

Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers, and I linger on the shore,
And the individual withers, and the world is more and more.

Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers, and he bears a laden breast,
Full of sad experience, moving toward the stillness of his rest.

Hark, my merry comrades call me, sounding on the bugle-horn,
They to whom my foolish passion were a target for their scorn:

Shall it not be scorn to me to harp on such a moulder'd string?
I am shamed thro' all my nature to have loved so slight a thing.

Weakness to be wroth with weakness! woman's pleasure, woman's painu0097
Nature made them blinder motions bounded in a shallower brain:.....................................150

Woman is the lesser man, and all thy passions, match'd with mine,
Are as moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wineu0097

Here at least, where nature sickens, nothing. Ah, for some retreat
Deep in yonder shining Orient, where my life began to beat;

Where in wild Mahratta-battle fell my father evil-starr'd,u0097
I was left a trampled orphan, and a selfish uncle's ward.

Or to burst all links of habitu0097there to wander far away,
On from island unto island at the gateways of the day.

Larger constellations burning, mellow moons and happy skies,
Breadths of tropic shade and palms in cluster, knots of Paradise.....................................160

Never comes the trader, never floats an European flag,
Slides the bird o'er lustrous woodland, swings the trailer from the crag;

Droops the heavy-blossom'd bower, hangs the heavy-fruited treeu0097
Summer isles of Eden lying in dark-purple spheres of sea.

There methinks would be enjoyment more than in this march of mind,
In the steamship, in the railway, in the thoughts that shake mankind.

There the passions cramp'd no longer shall have scope and breathing space;
I will take some savage woman, she shall rear my dusky race.

Iron-jointed, supple-sinew'd, they shall dive, and they shall run,
Catch the wild goat by the hair, and hurl their lances in the sun;.......................................170

Whistle back the parrot's call, and leap the rainbows of the brooks,
Not with blinded eyesight poring over miserable booksu0097

Fool, again the dream, the fancy! but I know my words are wild,
But I count the gray barbarian lower than the Christian child.

I, to herd with narrow foreheads, vacant of our glorious gains,
Like a beast with lower pleasures, like a beast with lower pains!

Mated with a squalid savageu0097what to me were sun or clime?
I the heir of all the ages, in the foremost files of timeu0097

I that rather held it better men should perish one by one,
Than that earth should stand at gaze like Joshua's moon in Ajalon!...................................180

Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us range,
Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.

Thro' the shadow of the globe we sweep into the younger day;
Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay.

Mother-Age (for mine I knew not) help me as when life begun:
Rift the hills, and roll the waters, flash the lightnings, weigh the Sun.

O, I see the crescent promise of my spirit hath not set.
Ancient founts of inspiration well thro' all my fancy yet.

Howsoever these things be, a long farewell to Locksley Hall!
Now for me the woods may wither, now for me the roof-tree fall...............................190

Comes a vapour from the margin, blackening over heath and holt,
Cramming all the blast before it, in its breast a thunderbolt.

Let it fall on Locksley Hall, with rain or hail, or fire or snow;
For the mighty wind arises, roaring seaward, and I go........................................................194


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Notes

1....curlews: Long-legged shorebird with a downward-curving bill tip. 
2....cataract: Rushing water; waterfall.
3....casement: Window with a frame that opens on hinges.. 
4....Orion: In Greek mythology, a giant who relentlessly pursued the seven Pleiades, daughters of Atlas (a Titan who carried the heavens on his shoulders). The names of the Pleiades were Alcyone, Celaeno, Electra, Maia, Merope, Sterope, and Taygete. Zeus, the king of the gods, changed the Pleiades into stars to put them out of Orion's reach. After his death, Orion was also changed into a star. (In astronomy, Orion is a constellation with many bright stars. Pleiades is a cluster of stars in the constellation Taurus.)
5....Pleiades: See Orion, above. 
6....dipt: Dipped.
7....lapwing: Shorebird with long wings.
8....copses: Groves of small trees; thickets of shrubs. 
9....Puppet . . . tongue: Amy's father controls her as if she were a puppet. She therefore heeds his threat. Her mother has a "shrewish tongue" that scolds her for seeing the poem's speaker.
10..Better . . . embrace: It would be better if we were dead.
11..rookery: Group; colony; flock.
12..Baby . . . rest: Amy's baby would mock the speaker because it would not be his. 
13..With . . . heart: Amy becomes like her motheru0097that is, Amy lectures her own child in the way that her mother lectured her.
14..guinea: British gold coin. 
15..bales: Disasters; misfortunes; calamities.
16. wroth: Very angry; wrathful.
17: Mahratta-battle: Any battle in three wars between the British East India Company and India's Maratha Empire. The first battle was fought between 1775 and 1782, the second between 1803 and 1805, and the third between 1817 and 1818. The British ultimately triumphed.
18. Joshua's . . . Ajalon: A reference to the following passage in Joshua 10:12-13 of the Old Testament:

On this day, when the LORD delivered up the Amorites to the Israelites,
Joshua prayed to the LORD, and said in the presence of Israel:
Stand still, O sun, at Gibeon, O moon, in the valley of Aijalon!

And the sun stood still, .and the moon stayed,
while the nation took vengeance on its foes. (New American Bible)

19. grooves of change: Reference to train travel. Before becoming familiar with how trains operated, Tennyson thought they ran in grooves.
20: Cathay: China.
21. margin: Horizon.
Tone

.......The poem begins with soulful nostalgia about a time in the speaker's life when he and his cousin Amy were in love. But in Line 39, the poem turns bitter and angry as the speaker reveals that Amy, bowing to the wishes of her parents, married another man. After ridiculing Amy and her husband sarcastically, the speaker turns his attention for a moment to the future and its promise:

I will turn that earlier page.
Hide me from my deep emotion, O thou wondrous Mother-Age! (lines 107-108)

Make me feel the wild pulsation that I felt before the strife,
When I heard my days before me, and the tumult of my life (lines 109-110)

Yearning for the large excitement that the coming years would yield,
Eager-hearted as a boy when first he leaves his father's field (Lines 107-112)

His bitterness and sarcasm return in Lines 148-154. 
I am shamed thro' all my nature to have loved so slight a thing.

Weakness to be wroth with weakness! woman's pleasure, woman's painu0097
Nature made them blinder motions bounded in a shallower brain:...................

Woman is the lesser man, and all thy passions, match'd with mine,
Are as moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wineu0097

Woman is the lesser man, and all thy passions, match'd with mine,
Are as moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wineu0097

The poem ends when the speaker wishes a storm would destroy Locksley Hall.

Figures of Speech

.......Following are examples of figures of speech in the poem.

Alliteration

When I clung to all the present for the promise that it closed (line 14)
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be (line 16)
Many a morning on the moorland (line 35)
Falser than all fancy fathoms, falser than all songs have sung (line 41)
father's field (line 112)
dreary dawn (line 114)
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales (line 122)
world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm (line 125)
Anaphora
Example 1
When the centuries behind me like a fruitful land reposed;
When I clung to all the present for the promise that it closed:
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When I dipt into the future far as human eye could see (lines 13-15)

Example 2
In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin's breast;
In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;

In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish'd dove;
In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love (lines 17-20)

Example 3
O my cousin, shallow-hearted! O my Amy, mine no more!
O the dreary, dreary moorland! O the barren, barren shore! (lines 39-40)

Example 4
Now for me the woods may wither, now for me the roof-tree fall. (line 190)

Metaphor
storm of sighs (line 27)
Comparison of exhalations with a storm
Metaphor/Personification
Love took up the glass of Time, and turn'd it in his glowing hands (line 31)
Comparison of the love to a person who upturns and hour glass
Onomatopoeia
But the jingling of the guinea helps the hurt that Honour feels,
And the nations do but murmur, snarling at each other's heels. (lines 105-106)
Simile
Many a night I saw the Pleiades, rising thro' the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid (lines 9-10)
Comparison of stars to fireflies

the centuries behind me like a fruitful land reposed (line 13)
Comparison of centuries to land

Tennyson's Prescience

.......When Tennyson discusses the future in "Locksley Hall," he presents remarkable images of air travel and warplanes even though he wrote the poem in the 1830s. His vision in this regard is far clearer than the often-ambiguous prophecies of the French astrologer Nostradamus (1503-1566). Following are Tennyson's prescient observations.

For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;

Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales;

Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly dew
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue. (lines 119-124)

Of course, Tennyson had no foreknowledge of aviation. He simply used his common sense to look ahead to what was likely to come about. 

Revelations About the Speaker

.......The poem expresses the speaker's extreme anger with Amy because of her decision to marry another man. This anger causes him to reveal that

1...He can be petty and sarcastic. (lines 48-52)
2...He believes women are inferior to men. (lines 151-152)
3...He harbors racial prejudice. (lines 173-178)
4...He is capricious. After considering moving to the Orient and marrying a native woman, he changes his mind a moment later, saying, 

Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us range,
Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.

Thro' the shadow of the globe we sweep into the younger day;
Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay. (lines 181-184)

Study Questions and Writing Topics
  • Where was the speaker born? (A line in the poem reveals the general location.)
  • Is the speaker's father alive? (A line in the poem reveals the answer.)
  • Does the poem's speaker reflect the feelings of Tennyson? (To answer this question, research the life of Tennyson.)
  • Write a short poem about unrequited love. You may make up the details or base the poem on a personal experience.
  • Amy obeys her parents rather than her feelings. Write an essay about whether the typical nineteenth-century woman married for love or another reason.

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