Enoch Arden does not touch upon the law directly.

In fact, it is an epic published by the well-known English poet Lord Tennyson (Alfred Tennyson, 1809-1892, image) about a sailor (Enoch Arden) who, believed to have been lost at sea, ultimately survived and finally made his way back to the vicinity of his home in England, where he hoped to pleasantly surprise his beloved wife, son and daughter Annie Lee.

As Enoch arrives at his home, years after his departure, he discreetly approaches ....

With one small gate that opened on the waste,
Flourished a little garden square and walled.
And in it throve an ancient evergreen,
A yew-tree, and all round it ran a walk
Of shingle, and a walk divided it.
But Enoch shunned the middle walk and stole
Up by the wall, behind the yew, and thence
That which he better might have shunned, if griefs
Like his have worse or better, Enoch saw.

Alfred TennysonFor cups and silver on the burnished board,
Sparkled and shone, so genial was the hearth.
And on the right hand of the hearth he saw,
Philip, the slighted suitor of old times.
Stout, rosy, with his babe across his knees.
A later but a loftier Annie Lee,
Fair haired and tall, and from her lifted hand
Dangled a length of ribbon and a ring.
To tempt the babe, who reared his creasy arms,
Caught at and ever missed it, and they laughed,

And on the left hand of the hearth he saw,
The mother glancing often toward her babe,
But turning now and then to speak with him,
Her son, who stood beside her tall and strong,
And saying that which pleased him, for he smiled.

Now when the dead man come to life beheld,
His wife his wife no more, and saw the babe
Her's, yet not his, upon the father's knee,
And all the warmth, the peace, the happiness,
And his children tall and beautiful,
And him, that other, reigning in his place
Lord of his rights and of his children's love,
Then he, though Miriam Lane had told him all,
Because things seen are mightier then things heard,
Staggered in shock, holding the branch, and feared
To send abroad a shrill and terrible cry,
Which in one moment, like the blast of doom,
Would shatter all the happiness of the hearth.

He therefore turning softly like a thief,
Lest the harsh shingle should great underfoot (...)
And there he would have knelt, but that his knees
Were feeble, so that falling prone he dug
His fingers into the wet earth, and prayed (...)

All down the long and narrow street he went,
Beating it in upon his weary brain,
As though it were the burthen of a song,
Not to tell her, never to let her know.

But at the time this poem was published, 1864, the common law of England (and as it was emulated in other jurisdictions such as Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States), was strict. A marriage could not be ended by the unexplained absence of a spouse. when, for example, a husband was lost at sea but his body never found, the wife could never be declared a widow nor could she remarry because of laws prohibiting bigamy.

Gradually, as a response to this harsh law, jurisdictions began to alleviate the difficulty by presuming the death of the absent husband after a number of years of absence (often seven years), thus allowing the wife to remarry and not face the wrath of bigamy prosecution.

Because of Tennyson's epic, these statues became known as Enoch Arden laws.

REFERENCES: