|Title||Surname First Name|
|An Answer||Cambridge, Ada|
|Curious Verses||Jones, Evan|
|Sonnet for an Engagement||Shapcott, Thomas W.|
|Engagement Party||Shapcott, Thomas W.|
Engagement poems celebrate the love between two people who have decided to get married and have announced their engagement to family and friends. In a short poem from his 1960 collection, Inside the Whale, entitled ‘Curious Verses (For C.W.C. on the occasion of his engagement)’, Evan Jones celebrates the engagement of a friend and fellow poet, Chris Wallace Crabbe. In contrast, Thomas Shapcott in a poem published at much the same time, ‘Sonnet for an Engagement’, celebrates his own engagement. Shapcott has also written a much more humorous engagement poem, entitled ‘Engagement Party’ about a typical Australian party of the period, where the men congregate around the beer and the women are left to talk among themselves, even though the poem is unusual in featuring the engagement of a Moslem woman to an Australian man.
There appear to have been few engagement poems written in the past three or four decades, perhaps because engagements are no longer such an important part of contemporary life now that people often live with their partners for some years before deciding to get married. For nineteenth-century poets, engagements and proposals were a much more important part of life since it was generally considered unacceptable for a respectable woman to even kiss a man before they were officially engaged. In his poem ‘Love’ Charles Harpur records his joy when his beloved says ‘yes’, so admitting that she loves him and is agreeing to his proposal of marriage. The woman in Ada Cambridge’s poem‘An Answer’, however, says ‘no’ when her beloved proposes marriage, since she does not believe that lovers should be tied together for ever in the marriage bond. This attitude prevailed among some advanced women near the end of the nineteenth century, at a time when divorce was much more difficult to achieve than it is today.