Only a Woman
She loves with love that cannot tire: And if, ah, woe! she loves alone, Through passionate duty love flames higher, As grass grows taller round a stone.
SO, the truth's out. I 'll grasp it like a snake, —
It will not slay me. My heart shall not break
Awhile, if only for the children's sake.
For his too, somewhat. Let him stand unblamed;
None say, he gave me less than honor claimed,
Except — one trifle scarcely worth being named —
The heart. That 's gone. The corrupt dead might be
As easily raised up, breathing — fair to see,
As he could bring his whole heart back to me.
I never sought him in coquettish sport,
Or courted him as silly maidens court,
And wonder when the longed-for prize falls short.
I only loved him — any woman would:
But shut my love up till he came and sued,
Then poured it o'er his dry life like a flood.
I was so happy I could make him blest!
So happy that I was his first and best,
As he mine — when he took me to his breast.
Ah me! If only then he had been true!
If for one little year, a month or two,
He had given me love for love, as was my due!
Or had he told me, ere the deed was done,
He only raised me to his heart's dear throne —
Poor substitute — because his queen was gone!
O, had he whispered, when his sweetest kiss
Was warm upon my mouth in fancied bliss,
He had kissed another woman even as this, —
It were less bitter! Sometimes I could weep
To be thus cheated, like a child asleep: —
Were not my anguish far too dry and deep.
So I built my house upon another's ground;
Mocked with a heart just caught at the rebound —
A cankered thing that looked so firm and sound.
And when that heart grew colder — colder still,
I, ignorant, tried all duties to fulfil,
Blaming my foolish pain, exacting will,
All — anything but him. It was to be:
The full draught others drink up carelessly
Was made this bitter Tantalus-cup for me.
I say again — he gives me all I claimed,
I and my children never shall be shamed:
He is a just man — he will live unblamed.
Only — O God, O God, to cry for bread,
And get a stone! Daily to lay my head
Upon a bosom where the old love's dead!
Dead? — Fool! It never lived. It only stirred
Galvanic, like an hour-cold corpse. None heard:
So let me bury it without a word.
He 'll keep that other woman from my sight.
I know not if her face be foul or bright;
I only know that it was his delight —
As his was mine: I only know he stands
Pale, at the touch of their long-severed hands,
Then to a flickering smile his lips commands,
Lest I should grieve, or jealous anger show.
He need not. When the ship 's gone down, I trow,
We little reck whatever wind may blow.
And so my silent moan begins and ends.
No world's laugh or world's taunt, not pity of friends
Or sneer of foes with this my torment blends.
None knows — none heeds. I have a little pride;
Enough to stand up, wife-like, by his side,
With the same smile as when I was a bride.
And I shall take his children to my arms;
They will not miss these fading, worthless charms;
Their kiss — ah! unlike his — all pain disarms.
And haply, as the solemn years go by,
He will think sometimes with regretful sigh,
The other woman was less true than I.
Composition date is unknown - the above date represents the first publication date.The lyrical form of this poem is aaa. 39.Tantalus: a king of Lydia condemned in Hades to standin water up to his chin, only to have the water recedewhenever he tried to drink.