“To Marguerite—Continued” was first published in 1852 under the title “To Marguerite, in Returning a Volume of the Letters of Ortis.” In 1853, Arnold gave this poem the simple title “To Marguerite” and included it in a group of poems with the general title of “Switzerland.” In 1857, he titled this poem “Isolation,” but in 1869 he gave that title to another “Switzerland” poem and assigned to this poem its final title.
Even though neither Marguerite nor Switzerland are mentioned in the poem, Arnold’s shufflings of texts and titles makes clear that “To Marguerite—Continued” belongs to his “Switzerland” group. Arnold visited Switzerland in 1848 and 1849. These poems, written mainly between 1847 and 1850, tell a love story of meetings and partings. There have been many theories of who Marguerite was; even though some have doubted her existence, these poems probably had their beginnings in a real—and unfulfilled—love relationship. Other “Switzerland” poems hint that Arnold found his desires thwarted by his inner moral voice, or by differences in the lovers’ cultural pasts (Marguerite may have been French), or by her sexual experience, or by Marguerite’s fickleness. At the end of the poem that eventually was placed before “To Marguerite—Continued,” Arnold abstracts from his experience: Unlike other men who dream that two hearts could become as one, Arnold knows that he is truly alone. As a whole, these...
(The entire section is 432 words.)