Vita Sackville-West, English poet, novelist and writer on gardening, was born on 9 March 1892
She was also famous for her intense relationship and ever-lasting friendship with Virginia Woolf.
So well she knew them both! yet as she came
Into the room, and heard their speech
Of tragic meshes knotted with her name,
And saw them, foes, but meeting each with each
Closer than friends, souls bared through enmity,
Beneath their startled gaze she thought that she
Broke as the stranger on their conference,
And stole abashed from thence
If the two people the speaker interrupts have no sentimental bond with her, the central theme of the poem is backbiting, gossiping, which can unite two people even if they don’t like each other.
But, more probably, those two people have some sort of love affair with her, therefore the poem is about jealousy. They are lovers talking animatedly about her and they are really hostile to each other. Nevertheless, their closeness in the discussion makes them appear almost friends, bound by a shared attitude. Their failure to contain their jealousy creates a sort of unintentional intimacy.
Unable to deal with their feelings, the woman’s only option is to leave quickly.
Li conosceva entrambi così bene! eppure quando entrò
nella stanza e udì le loro parole
nelle cui tragiche maglie era intrappolato il suo nome,
e li vide, loro, nemici, tanto vicini
da apparire amici, sebbene smentiti dalla reciproca avversione,
sotto il loro sguardo sbalordito pensò che, come un’estranea,
aveva interrotto il loro incontro,
e confusa sgattaiolò via.
image: Wikimedia Commons, Studio portrait presented by Esther Cloudman Dunn to the Smith College Library. 1926