Isabel Rogers, Poet Laureate of Hampshire, has written four poems inspired by her time at Chawton House Library.

This is the first of four poems and was composed in our Oak Room. Although it is indeed a ‘Ladies’ Withdrawing Room’, the Oak Room gets its name from the fireback, which depicts the oak tree in which King Charles II hid after the battle of Worcester in 1651. The alcove window referred to in the poem offers excellent views down the drive and over the lawns.

If you want to know more about Isabel Rogers, click here.

Withdrawing room window

At this window I am twice withdrawn:

from the rush of life – or other people’s talk of it,

the ladies from the gentlemen –

and I from the ladies.

I excel in layered waiting:

for a man to return, to propose,

to give me something to react to.

The brilliance of my response

would put out the sun, were scientific laws

to allow such a female breach.


Furthest from the oak fireplace,

even the floorboards turn:

a three-plank threshold

to mark your choice.


I am a liminal woman,

kept like a tame bird: shown the world

yet confined (and yes, unvarying).

Here I sit, attached and detached –

footsteps on the stair, in the hall,

laughter, conversation – I scuff the edge of it.

Curtains and gowns;

fabric to muffle our true nature.

Reading Alcove

View from the Oak Room