Summary of the poem The Forsaken Wife

All love poems are not romantic. There are some that are bitter and rude. The Forsaken Wife by Elizabeth Thomas is one such love poem. It speaks of deception, betrayal, and infidelity. Today, I will share a summary of one such heart touching poem.

It is a poem that spits on the term love. It will twist your heart and bleed you emotionally a thousand times. The poem is full of bitter romance.

A Short Biography of the Poet

The poet of “The Forsaken Wife” is Elizabeth Thomas (1675-1731). She had had a very impoverished childhood. Born to Elizabeth Osborne and Emmanuel Thomas. She lost her father when she was an infant. Her mother passed away when she turned sixteen.

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The mother-daughter duo faced severe financial crunch after the demise of Emmanuel. Her early childhood in Surrey was extremely difficult. It was only after they moved to London, things got normal for the two.

Elizabeth Thomas got her education at home. She was a well-read woman. At home, she learned French and some Latin. She bought books on her own and learned everything from there. By the time she reached her mid-twenties, the lady turned a confident poet.

Thomas could never marry Richard Gwinnett. She was engaged to him for sixteen years. Owing to his responsibilities toward his ailing mother, he could not marry her. Richard left Thomas a legacy after his death. His family suppressed his will.

John Dryden confessed that her words were too good to be a woman’s. She had such an impact on him.

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The majority of her poetry dealt with women issues. Women were deprived of education at that time. Hence, she always raised this subject in most of her works. Sarcasm is her forte, and satires define her.

Thomas spent three years in jail due to her debts. She died after a year of her release.

The Forsaken Wife

Methinks, ’tis strange you can’t afford
One pitying look, one parting word;
Humanity claims this as due,
But what’s humanity to you?

Cruel man! I am not blind,
Your infidelity I find;
Your want of love my ruin shows,
My broken heart, your broken vows.
Yet maugre all your rigid hate,
I will be true in spite of fate;
And one preeminence I’ll claim,
To be for ever still the same.

Show me a man that dare be true,
That dares to suffer what I do;
That can for ever sigh unheard,
And ever love without regard:
I then will own your prior claim
To love, to honour, and to fame;
But till that time, my dear, adieu,
I yet superior am to you.

Themes of the Poem

  • Love
  • Infidelity
  • Anger
  • Contrast
  • Generalisation
  • Betrayal


The poem begins with the wife addressing her husband as inhumane. She attacks him verbally for betraying her. He cheated her and she cannot forgive or forget. The forsaken wife feels she has been emotionally destroyed. His actions are wrong. She knows the society she lives in will not blame him. Chances are, he might seek forgiveness. And like a lady, she ought to forgive him. No, that is not going to happen in her time. She bids him adieu and leaves him standing by.

Superior she is, why would she be treated like a toy!!!

Summary of the Poem

1st Stanza

The opening stanza establishes the entire mood of the poem. The forsaken wife condemns her unfaithful husband for being inhumane. The poet in the second line laments her loss. Here, we get to know that it is the poem of loss and grief. The title confirms that it is the poetry of a cheating husband. He has deserted his wife without even a single look of pity or a goodbye. A tone of pain and anguish is established. In the next two lines, she writes it is humane to have pity on the wife. He could have at least said goodbye. These gestures are human, moral, and right. But he leaves without any such gesture. It is only obvious that he is inhumane.

2nd Stanza

The second stanza creates a somber tone. In this stanza, the situation of the wife comes to the forefront. She calls him cruel for cheating on her. It is he who wronged her but she is the one who suffers. On top of all this, he hates her. The society will never adhere to her loss. The woman is not swayed by his faults. She vows to remain the same. Come what may, she will not give up on her marriage. Unlike her adulterer husband, she will remain forgiving and chaste. Her virtuousness will remain intact despite her broken heart.

3rd Stanza

In the final stanza, the wife squares her shoulder and feels proud of her strength. She claims that there is no man like her. Men and women are always in contrast. The former is impure and the latter is pure. Adultery and infidelity are inherent traits of a man. Whereas it is incumbent upon a woman to stay loyal and strong. Thomas closes the poem by saying say that till the time society conjures up a faithful man, the wife promises to say goodbye to all men. She chooses to be alone. In the meantime, she will remain superior in her virtues and values. 

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