Fisherman Mourned By His Wife | Summary & Analysis

Fisherman Mourned By His Wife by Patrick Fernando

The poem “The Fisherman Mourned by His Wife” by Patrick Fernando has six stanzas, and every stanza rhymes by alternating every other line. There are a few half-rhymes and missing rhymes scattered throughout, but they do not detract from the poem’s mood. As the poem moves along, there are fewer lines in each stanza.

The marriage between a fisherman and his wife, who is lamenting his departure, is the subject of this six-stanza poem. The wife’s point of view is used to narrate the poem/story. The speaker describes the beginning of their marriage, describing how it was first contrived and loveless by their families but quickly developed into a passionate union. After a protracted rain keeps the fisherman at home for three months, the wife falls pregnant.

The speaker highlights their feelings to learning about the impending kid as she proceeds to relate the tale of their relationship. She talks about her anxiety about informing him and his discomfort at the news. She quickly became “greater than God or temptation” to him, and he began to appreciate her. The speaker returns to discussing the effect the death of her spouse has had on her and her children as the poem begins to conclude. The others cry for him while the youngest thinks he is only sleeping.

While everyone around her try to console her and take care of the little things in life, the wife is going through yet another significant upheaval in her life. Her life is starting again once more, as symbolized by the development of a fresh storm.

Summary of Fisherman Mourned By His Wife

The poem ‘Fisherman Mourned By His Wife’ is about the uncertain life of a fisherman.  The poem expresses the view of the fisherman’s wife.  She mourns for her dead husband.  The marriage between the fisherman and his wife was arranged by the two families.  They start their life with no emotions.  But soon it turned into a great affection and they lived a happy life with love and affection.  The wife now becomes pregnant.  She feels frightened to express her joy.  After hearing the news his reaction was quiet and went to work. 

But he could treat her as his queen and she is going feel her husband as her god. Soon their happiness was shattered by the death of their husband.  The children being small could not understand the loss of their father.  The small kid believes that his father is sleeping and wonders why others are weeping for him.  Now being a widow she enters into another world which is full of new challenges.  All her hope has gone

About the Writer: Patrick Fernando

A Sri Lankan poet.  He was born in 1931 and is best known in Sri Lankan literary society.  One of the most accomplished poets of Sri Lankan poets. He is one of the first poets to be published in London. His work depicts the reality of life, the struggle for survival and love and loss.  He died in 1983.

Detail Analysis of the Poem

In the first stanza, the poet expresses the sad soliloquy of the widow.  She reminisces about the past with her husband.  She thinks of happiness, love and her new relationship with her husband as they are newly married.  She says her husband is not quite thirty and his body had not tanned due to long work under the sun. 

The sun had not turned him into an old boat brown to show that he is getting old. He is not obsessed with death and not showing bitterness in life like the rest.  They are now married and living happy life. Perhaps in future, he would become and possess all these qualities.   During these happy days, the fisherman comes home after his hard work with dreams of his wife.  He is like the gull the bird who is very genuine and mates with only one partner until it dies.  Like that bird that fisherman comes to his wife with love and affection in one direction.  He had one pointed direction in which he would go with self-control or continence.

The Stanza Stanza of Poem

In this stanza the poet makes a reminder as this is not a happy remembrance, the poem is mourning her dead husband.  The first two lines give the message of his death.  She wants to confess many things. He is very far from her, now where to be seen.  He is not with her to reply to her and she could feel the pain of his disappearance. She says their marriage was an arranged marriage by the elders.  They decided their future as a part of their culture and custom.  She remembers how first her husband felt impatient and afraid.  When they shared happiness it was without love with trembling and nervousness. Her fears are real.  She felt insecure as if he might not be her husband literally. He may either be with her always or abandon her.

In the third stanza, the poet describes the love they shared.  Three months the monsoon strikes the sea and the husband is forced to stay at home.  Their love and passion burst out like the sky cracked like a shell in thunder and they poured their love like rain. At last, the storm ends and the pouring stopped, and the storm winds fell.  The gulls came back to their home and their plumage feather was new, the love and passion between the fisherman and his wife have turned them into a very close relationship, as a result, they have blossomed with bud. She is blessed with a child for their love.

The fourth stanza reveals the transformation of the fisherman from husband to father.  The speaker in this situation feels fearful to share the good news of her pregnancy with her husband.  Her face went pale and her voice was so low, as she is scared to share her happiness with her husband.  After hearing the news fisherman nodded with no emotions and at once went to sea.  He was so confused by the news and didn’t know how to react.  Soon he comes back as he realises that his wife is more than god or temptation.  She is more than anything to him, a temptation of life by evil forces or the blessing of god.  She is something great. She is above all to him now.

The speaker expresses her feelings about society after the death of her husband.  Society says about the practical life of a person.  They say men come and go, and no one can stay forever, also they know her situation and they feel for her too.  But all their efforts are to comfort her.  only she knows the real situation where she weeps with her children. The children are the gifts of their love.  The youngest child could not understand why people cry when their father was sleeping.  The innocence gives more pain to the readers and brings visual imagery of the sad situation.  She lost her happiness and hope.  She says “you are my hand and I lost my hand now.” The grief is not a simple one to get over with. She cannot make it easier to walk away from her grief.  She has to live in that pain accepting her hope and sunshine have disappeared from ever. 

The concluding part of the stanza talks about the real world.   She says about the strong wind pulling the leaves from the trees that nurse them.  Her husband who is a pillar, the tree has blown away and left her alone in that world without none to comfort her pain. Again she feels the sky cracks open, not as before when they pour their love on each other with bursting feelings of love.  This time her hope is torn apart and her world is cracked like a shell.  She could not get over her grief but for others, the society continue their lives as it is the practical end of life.

Literary Devices

The title explains and brings the visual image of the mourning of a fisherman’s wife.

The theme is the uncertain life of a fisherman, the practical acceptance of society, and the pain of a wife.

The narrative style is the soliloquy of the young widow who expresses her grief.

The poet uses a musical rhyme pattern of ABABCDED

The poem consists of six stanzas with various line patterns.  In each stanza, the lines go in descending order. The poet suggests the difficulty of the young widow accepting the reality of life.

The technique of Flashback and stream of consciousness are used well to bring out the grief of the mourning wife so the readers could feel the pain and see the reality of life.

The repetition “You were not quite thirty” – they are a young couple.

“Trembling, lest in fear you would let me go a maid, trembling, on the other hand for my virginity.” – The feeling and fear of a young wife and newly married couple.


Personification “sun had not yet tanned” denotes life is not so hard to turn him rough.

“The monsoon thrashed the sea” climatic change brings monsoon season and that makes her husband to stay home.  A turning point where they poured their love.

Outside the wind despoils of leaves” leaves blown away from the tree to nurse it. Nature has its own way to come back.  But none were there to comfort the young widow.

The bird gull is symbolized to show the purity of their relationship.  He always shares his love only with his wife. “The sky cracks like a shell again,” a great change in her life is unavoidable. Flamboyant represents family life which is filled with happiness and hope.

Visual images are old boat brown, a gull flying pointed home.

Simile – “the sky cracked like a shell,”

“Like the rest”

“Chaste as gull flying pointed home”- purity

“My eyes were open in the dark unlike in love” -natural behaviour of the arranged marriage.

“You had grown familiar as my hand,” -great loss and pain.

Comparative “I was to you more than god or temptation and so were you to me”

“Cracked like a shell” could be an auditory image.

The poem says about the uncertain life of a fisherman and the pain of the young widow who mourns for her departed husband.  The poet also through his simple language draws the economic situation of the fisherman. Certain climatic changes stop the fishermen to do their daily routine.  They wait until the climate becomes normal.  Their life is a daily struggle for survival. The poem blends the reality of life and death is unavoidable which causes great pain to their loved ones.