Only a Woman

Original Text: 
Dinah Maria Craik, Poems (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1866), pp. 228-31. LE C887p. Robarts Library.
          "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."
                             Coventry Patmore.
1SO, the truth's out. I 'll grasp it like a snake, --
2It will not slay me. My heart shall not break
3Awhile, if only for the children's sake.
4For his too, somewhat. Let him stand unblamed;
5None say, he gave me less than honor claimed,
6Except -- one trifle scarcely worth being named --
7The heart. That 's gone. The corrupt dead might be
8As easily raised up, breathing -- fair to see,
9As he could bring his whole heart back to me.
10I never sought him in coquettish sport,
11Or courted him as silly maidens court,
12And wonder when the longed-for prize falls short.
13I only loved him -- any woman would:
14But shut my love up till he came and sued,
15Then poured it o'er his dry life like a flood.
16I was so happy I could make him blest!
17So happy that I was his first and best,
18As he mine -- when he took me to his breast.
19Ah me! If only then he had been true!
20If for one little year, a month or two,
21He had given me love for love, as was my due!
22Or had he told me, ere the deed was done,
23He only raised me to his heart's dear throne --
24Poor substitute -- because his queen was gone!
25O, had he whispered, when his sweetest kiss
26Was warm upon my mouth in fancied bliss,
27He had kissed another woman even as this, --
28It were less bitter! Sometimes I could weep
29To be thus cheated, like a child asleep: --
30Were not my anguish far too dry and deep.
31So I built my house upon another's ground;
32Mocked with a heart just caught at the rebound --
33A cankered thing that looked so firm and sound.
34And when that heart grew colder -- colder still,
35I, ignorant, tried all duties to fulfil,
36Blaming my foolish pain, exacting will,
37All -- anything but him. It was to be:
38The full draught others drink up carelessly
40I say again -- he gives me all I claimed,
41I and my children never shall be shamed:
42He is a just man -- he will live unblamed.
43Only -- O God, O God, to cry for bread,
44And get a stone! Daily to lay my head
45Upon a bosom where the old love's dead!
46Dead? -- Fool! It never lived. It only stirred
47Galvanic, like an hour-cold corpse. None heard:
48So let me bury it without a word.
49He 'll keep that other woman from my sight.
50I know not if her face be foul or bright;
51I only know that it was his delight --
52As his was mine: I only know he stands
53Pale, at the touch of their long-severed hands,
54Then to a flickering smile his lips commands,
55Lest I should grieve, or jealous anger show.
56He need not. When the ship 's gone down, I trow,
57We little reck whatever wind may blow.
58And so my silent moan begins and ends.
59No world's laugh or world's taunt, not pity of friends
60Or sneer of foes with this my torment blends.
61None knows -- none heeds. I have a little pride;
62Enough to stand up, wife-like, by his side,
63With the same smile as when I was a bride.
64And I shall take his children to my arms;
65They will not miss these fading, worthless charms;
66Their kiss -- ah! unlike his -- all pain disarms.
67And haply, as the solemn years go by,
68He will think sometimes with regretful sigh,
69The other woman was less true than I.

Notes

39] Tantalus: a king of Lydia condemned in Hades to stand in water up to his chin, only to have the water recede whenever he tried to drink. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1859
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.
Rhyme: