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[Typescript Poem] “The Vagrant”

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Mary Webb. “The Vagrant.” Typescript poem, two leaves, 9¼″ x 8″ and 10″ x 7¼″, numbered (in ink) in upper-right corners, white wove paper. Forty lines in eight stanzas, two ink corrections. Dated by Webb’s biographers as composed at age 20 while recovering from her first bout of Graves’ disease, “The Vagrant” depicts an elusive, mystical presence in nature that takes the form of a vague Christ-like figure. Hilda Addison says in Mary Webb: A Short Study of Her Life and Work (1931) that Mary Webb “always considered this poem more truly representative of her spiritual position than any other.” During adolescence, Mary had moved away from orthodox Christianity to a belief that God is manifest and revealed in nature. This poem “conveys an intense yearning to grasp the elusive personality that she feels everywhere in nature” (Coles, The Flower of Light, 1978, p. 80). “The Vagrant” was first published in January 1915 in the English Review when Webb was thirty-three.