Compare ‘Cousin Kate’ by Christina Rossetti with ‘the Seduction’ by Eileen Mcauley

Category: Poetry
Last Updated: 19 Apr 2023
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‘Cousin Kate’ is a double ballade, meaning that it is heavily rhymed and consists of six stanzas of 8 lines. It was written by Christina Rossetti in the 1870s. The outline of the poem is that the narrator ‘cottage maiden’ is introduced and describes herself as ‘Hardened by sun and air’ which shows that she is fairly low-class and that she works outside. In the 1800’s, if you had a tan because you would be working outside, this would show that you were of the working class. She then falls in love with the ‘great lord’ after he found her out and complimented her, ’Why did the great lord find me out and praise my flaxen hair? This quote tells you that he flirted and seduced her, and flaxen hair meaning fair-haired. The next stanza goes on to say that the lord then took her to his ‘palace home’ suggesting that he was rich and they had playful sex, (‘His plaything and his love’).

The quote ‘So now I moan, an unclean thing, who might of been a dove’ tells you that a dove is a sign of virginity and that now she moans, an unclean thing suggests that the lord took that away from her and she is now ‘unclean’.At this time in the poem, Cousin Kate comes is introduced is said to be prettier than the cottage maiden, ‘O Lady Kate, my cousin Kate, You grew more fair than I’. The lord then saw Cousin Kate, and discarded the cottage maiden for her, ‘Chose you, and cast me by. ’ The lord takes Cousin Kate to a higher status by his side. The stanza after that, the narrator (cottage maiden) is moaning about how the only reason that the lord proposed to Cousin Kate is because she was ‘good and pure’ meaning that she didn’t let him seduce her and she kept her virginity under ‘lock and key’.The neighbours then call Cousin Kate good and pure but the cottage maiden ‘an outcast thing’. This is because you were frowned upon in the 19th century if had sex before marriage.

The narrator also mentions how she ‘sits and howls in dust, you sit in gold and sing’ meaning how Cousin Kate had it better off than she did or as the poem says, ‘You had the stronger wing. ’ In the following stanza, the poem says how the cottage maiden’s love was ‘true’ and Cousin Kate’s was ‘writ in sand’ suggesting that it was untrue.The narrator then goes on to say, ‘He’d not have won me with his love, nor bought me with his land; I would have spit into his face and not have taken his hand. ’ Meaning that if she was Cousin Kate, she wouldn’t have gone with the lord but reject him. In the final stanza, it says ‘Yet I’ve a gift you have not got, and seem not like to get’ which tells us that the narrator has something valuable that apparently Cousin Kate in unlikely to get, the valuable gift that the narrator has is later revealed in the stanza as ‘my fair-haired son, my shame, my pride’.This gives the impression that is in regret but now she has her son, she is very happy. In this poem, Rossetti is setting messages about love in the 19th century.

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The poem gives an idea of how vulnerable women were and that if you had sex outside of marriage, it would completely ruin your reputation. ‘The Seduction’ written my Eileen McAuley (1980’s) is written in the third person. The poem starts off after a party, early in the morning where a girl is led to the ‘quiet bricks of the Birkenhead docks’ and is sat next to a boy by a river.This boy is described to be quite a nasty piece of work, ‘He spat in the river’, ‘She giggled, drunk and nervous, and he muttered ‘little slag’’. The poem then says how she met this boy at a party and ‘he danced with her all night’. He had told her about his life of football and ‘she had nodded, quite enchanted, and her eyes were wide and bright. ’ This quote gives the impression that he is talking so much that she hasn’t been able to talk.

Later on in the poem it says ‘She chattered on, and stared at the water, the Mersey, green as a septic wound. Then, when he swiftly contrived to kiss her, his kiss was scented by Listerine. This shows that as soon as she starts talking, it would appear that he kisses her to shut her up, giving an idea to how self-absorbed he is. The poem also mentions how she was wearing ‘all high white shoes’, this gives a sign that white is the colour of purity and virginity and then later in the poem where it says, ‘On that day, she broke her heels’ which means that the poem is implying that she had drunken sex with the boy and the fact that she ‘broke’ her heels means that she ‘broke’ her virginity.She discovers that ‘she was three months gone and she sobbed in the cool, locked darkness of her room. She rips up all her ‘Mr Guy and her Jackie photo-comics until they were just bright paper, like confetti, strewn on the carpet. ’ This quote implies that she is ripping up her life dreams, the confetti act supports the idea that she is also ripping up her dream of a marriage.

The last stanza is suggesting that she feels so betrayed by life that she is considering suicide. Possibly starving herself and fading away. This poem has a very different ending to ‘Cousin Kate’. ‘The Seduction has more of a dark suicide feeling to it as ‘Cousin Kate’ is much happier as the narrator is happy with her ‘precious gift’. Cousin Kate’ by Christina Rossetti and ‘The Seduction’ by Eileen McAuley, at first, seems as if they have different aspects of love but once you explore the two poems, they appear to have a very similar storyline. For instance, the female protagonists in both poems fell in love with a man they thought they could trust, each of the men end up abandoning them, leaving the girls pregnant. ‘O cousin Kate, my love was true,’ taken from ‘Cousin Kate’ and ‘she had nodded, quite enchanted, and her eyes were wide and bright.

As he brought her more drinks, so she fell in love. ’ This quote taken from ‘The Seduction’ suggests that the alcohol she is consuming is making her love him more plus she is so enchanted by the life of his he is telling her, all of this mixes together and she falls in love with him. The two quotes above tell you the similar situation of both women falling in love. ‘He saw you at your father’s gate, chose you, and cast me by,’ taken from ‘Cousin Kate’ and ‘cheated by the promise of it all’, ‘for where, now, was he summer of her sixteenth year? taken from ‘The Seduction’ plus the fact that the boy is no longer mentioned in the poem and the quote from ‘Cousin Kate’ give you another main similarity of both poems. ‘My fair-haired son, my shame, my pride’ from ‘Cousin Kate’ and ‘when she discovered she was three months gone’ from ‘The Seduction’ are both quotes from each poem representing the final main similarity from the poems, that both women are left pregnant. These similarities show the fact that men don’t have much responsibility for unplanned children and usually feel that they can just walk away from it.There are quite a few differences in the poems such as the time and style of writing and the obvious one being that in ‘Cousin Kate’, the cottage maiden loves her child but in ‘The Seduction’, the girl seems to hate herself and the baby and finds the need to destroy herself.

In the end, I think that both poems have very similar outlooks on love. Both poets have illustrated the consequences of unplanned pregnancy and it’s interesting how the effects of pregnancy outside of a relationship to you and people’s view on pregnancy haven’t changed much in the space of 100 years.

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Compare ‘Cousin Kate’ by Christina Rossetti with ‘the Seduction’ by Eileen Mcauley. (2018, Dec 08). Retrieved from

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