The Somerset Woman's Story

Original Text: 
Marjory Nicholls, Collected Poems, comp. Niel Wright (Wellington: Original Books, 2009).
Lonely of Heart
"The lonely of heart is withered away." W. B. Yeats
2Unhappy in body and mind,
3Restless and weary;
4Saying the bitter word,
5Sneering at gentleness
6And the sweet looks of others;
7Doing the cheerless task,
8Driving one's spirit;
9Lone in a barren land
10Fighting the drought and the dearth
11Athirst and unfed--
12Such was I, many years.
13Then came a friend to me.
14Nearer than others
15Slowly he grew to be:
16How I was gladdened!
17Soft curved the line of my lips,
18Brighter my eyes shone;
19Never the bitter word now
20But the gay and the heartening;
21And a spirit that danced like a flame
22Clear, clear in my heart.
23Sudden and unawares
24The friend grew a lover.
25So hard, so hard I tried
26To hide the dancing flame in my heart,
27But I could not wholly;
28Nor the gifts of peace and of joy
29That God gives us with love,
30Nor the powers we add to ourselves
31Of happy achievement--
32So changed was I.
33Free and un-free were we--
34And though the instincts of ten thousand years
35Folded us close together,
36The man-wrought customs of the centuries
37As walls divided us.
38Out from the walled grey streets--
39Narrow, but safe, safe--
40Into the sunlit fields and waving woods--
41We could not feel that it was wronging God,
42Though it was wronging man's strait, careful laws
43That, while they guard some treasure,
44Waste others cruelly.
45What does God think of man,
46I wonder then,
47And of his judgment?
The End
1My love is dead, and I who had his heart,
2I had no right to vigil by his side.
3His wife and nurses tended him at need,
4Giving him empty comfort as he died.
5Here were the hands to minister to him--
6Here was the breast for him to lay his head--
7Here was a love ready to wrest with death--
8And hope, whereby his spirit might be fed.
9I could not come. He knew I could not come.
10Secret our love. Secret with him it goes.
12And one small, love-warm room our secret knows.
13My love is dead, and I who had his heart
14I have no right to mourn, while she goes past--
15She who was cold of eye and cruel of tongue--
16Walking in woeful black, with eyes downcast.
17So let her go. She has to make replies
18When consolation meet to her is spoken:
19No emptiness of phrase profanes my love--
20None speaks to me, nor knows my heart is broken.
21And when the days have passed to months and years,
22I'll find that I have wrought from love and grief
23A shining cup wherefrom my spirit drinks,
24Bringing my life some solace and relief.

Notes

1] "The following two poems tell very briefly the story of a woman whom I met one evening in a little inn at an out-of-the-way village in the Quantocks. She was sitting in the parlour in the dark when I entered. She was in mourning and seemingly unhappy. She gave me these confidences--sitting there in the darkness. Next morning, after breakfast, she left by motor coach for Bristol--nor did I ever see her again." (poet's note)
"The lonely of heart ...": from The Land of Heart's Desire (1894). Back to Line
11] benignant: kindly. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1930
Publication Notes: 
Thirdly (1930).
RPO poem Editors: 
Cameron La Follette
RPO Edition: 
2011