The Man Who Married Magdalene

By Louis Simpson 1923–2012 Louis Simpson
The man who married Magdalene   
Had not forgiven her.
God might pardon every sin ...   
Love is no pardoner.

Her hands were hollow, pale, and blue,   
Her mouth like watered wine.
He watched to see if she were true   
And waited for a sign.

It was old harlotry, he guessed,   
That drained her strength away,   
So gladly for the dark she dressed,   
So sadly for the day.

Their quarrels made her dull and weak   
And soon a man might fit
A penny in the hollow cheek
And never notice it.

At last, as they exhausted slept,   
Death granted the divorce,   
And nakedly the woman leapt   
Upon that narrow horse.

But when he woke and woke alone   
He wept and would deny
The loose behavior of the bone   
And the immodest thigh.

Louis Simpson, “The Man Who Married Magdalene” from The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems 1940-2001. Copyright © 2003 by Louis Simpson. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.,

Source: Collected Poems (BOA Editions Ltd., 1988)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Louis Simpson 1923–2012

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Marriage & Companionship, Love, Separation & Divorce, Men & Women, Death, Living, Relationships, Desire, Heartache & Loss

Poetic Terms Ballad

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.