Mary Elizabeth Coleridge


MARY COLERIDGE was born and lived her entire life in London, where, after 1890, she taught at the Women's Working College and contributed extensively to literary journals, including the Times Literary Supplement. In addition to her poetry, which she was reluctant to published during her lifetime, she also produced several novels.

The folk motif in "The Witch" of lifting a female over a blessed threshold recalls the "Christabel" of the poet's great-great uncle, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as the flame on the hearth recalls his "Frost at Midnight" (see p. 475). The sense of psychic danger is intensified by the absence of quotation marks to separate the first two stanzas from the third, as if the two speakers have become one Witch.


I have walked a great while over the snow,
And I am not tall nor strong.
My clothes are wet, and my teeth are set,
And the way was hard and long.
I have wandered over the fruitful earth,
But I never came here before.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in 
at the door!

The cutting wind is a cruel foe;
I dare not stand in the blast.                                 
My hands are stone, and my voice a groan, And the worst of death is past.
I am but a little maiden still;
My little white feet are sore.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in 
at the door!

Her voice was the voice that women have, 
Who plead for their heart's desire.
She came-she came-and the quivering flame
Sank and died in the fire.
It never was lit again on my hearth		
Since I hurried across the floor,
To lift her over the threshold, and let her in		
at the door!