The Happiest Girl in the World

Original Text: 
Augusta Webster, Portraits, 2nd edn. (London: Macmillan and Co., 1870): 23-34.
1     A WEEK ago; only a little week:
2it seems so much much longer, though that day
3is every morning still my yesterday;
4as all my life 'twill be my yesterday,
5for all my life is morrow to my love.
6Oh fortunate morrow! Oh sweet happy love!
7A week ago; and I am almost glad
8to have him now gone for this little while,
9that I may think of him and tell myself
10what to be his means, now that I am his,
11and know if mine is love enough for him,
12and make myself believe it all is true.
13A week ago; and it seems like a life,
14and I have not yet learned to know myself:
15I am so other than I was, so strange,
16grown younger and grown older all in one;
17and I am not so sad and not so gay;
18and I think nothing, only hear him think.
19That morning, waking, I remembered him
20"Will he be here to-day? he often comes; --
21and is it for my sake or to kill time?"
22and, wondering "Will he come?" I chose the dress
23he seemed to like the best, and hoped for him;
24and did not think I could quite love him yet.
25And did I love him then with all my heart?
26or did I wait until he held my hands
27and spoke "Say, shall it be?" and kissed my brow,
28and I looked at him and he knew it all?
29And did I love him from the day we met?
30but I more gladly danced with some one else
31who waltzed more smoothly and was merrier:
32and did I love him when he first came here?
33but I more gladly talked with some one else
34whose words were readier and who sought me more.
35When did I love him? How did it begin?
36The small green spikes of snowdrops in the spring
37are there one morning ere you think of them;
38still we may tell what morning they pierced up:
39June rosebuds stir and open stealthily,
40and every new blown rose is a surprise;
41still we can date the day when one unclosed:
42but how can I tell when my love began?
43Oh, was it like the young pale twilight star
44that quietly breaks on the vacant sky,
45is sudden there and perfect while you watch,
46and, though you watch, you have not seen it dawn,
47the star that only waited and awoke?
48But he knows when he loved me; for he says
49the first time we had met he told a friend
50"The sweetest dewy daisy of a girl,
51but not the solid stuff to make a wife;"
52and afterwards the first time he was here,
53when I had slipped away into our field
54to watch alone for sunset brightening on
55and heard them calling me, he says he stood
56and saw me come along the coppice walk
57beneath the green and sparkling arch of boughs,
58and, while he watched the yellow lights that played
59with the dim flickering shadows of the leaves
60over my yellow hair and soft pale dress,
61flitting across me as I flitted through,
62he whispered inly, in so many words,
63"I see my wife; this is my wife who comes,
64and seems to bear the sunlight on with her:"
65and that was when he loved me, so he says.
66Yet is he quite sure? was it only then?
67and had he had no thought which I could feel?
68for why was it I knew that he would watch,
69and all the while thought in my silly heart,
70as I advanced demurely, it was well
71I had on the pale dress with sweeping folds
72which took the light and shadow tenderly,
73and that the sunlights touched my hair and cheek,
74because he'd note it all and care for it?
75Oh vain and idle poor girl's heart of mine,
76content with that coquettish mean content!
77He, with his man's straight purpose, thinking "wife,"
78and I but that 'twas pleasant to be fair
79and that 'twas pleasant he should count me fair.
80But oh, to think he should be loving me
81and I be no more moved out of myself!
82The sunbeams told him, but they told me nought,
83except that maybe I was looking well.
84And oh had I but known! Why did no bird,
85trilling its own sweet lovesong, as I passed,
86so musically marvellously glad,
87sing one for me too, sing me "It is he,"
88sing "Love him," and "You love him: it is he,"
89that I might then have loved him when he loved,
90that one dear moment might be date to both?
91And must I not be glad he hid his thought
92and did not tell me then, when it was soon
93and I should have been startled, and not known
94how he is just the one man I can love,
95and, only with some pain lest he were pained,
96and nothing doubting, should have answered "No."
97How strange life is! I should have answered "No."
98Oh, can I ever be half glad enough
99he is so wise and patient and could wait!
100He waited as you wait the reddening fruit
101which helplessly is ripening on the tree,
102and not because it tries or longs or wills,
103only because the sun will shine on it:
104but he who waited was himself that sun.
105Oh was it worth the waiting? was it worth?
106For I am half afraid love is not love,
107this love which only makes me rest in him
108and be so happy and so confident,
109this love which makes me pray for longest days
110that I may have them all to use for him,
111this love which almost makes me yearn for pain
112that I might have borne something for his sake,
113this love which I call love, is less than love.
114Where are the fires and fevers and the pangs?
115where is the anguish of too much delight,
116and the delirious madness at a kiss,
117the flushing and the paling at a look,
118and passionate ecstasy of meeting hands?
119where is the eager weariness at time
120that will not bate a single measured hour
121to speed to us the far-off wedding day?
122I am so calm and wondering, like a child
123who, led by a firm hand it knows and trusts
124along a stranger country beautiful
125with a bewildering beauty to new eyes
126if they be wise to know what they behold,
127finds newness everywhere but no surprise,
128and takes the beauty as an outward part
129of being led so kindly by the hand.
130I am so cold: is mine but a child's heart,
131and not a woman's fit for such a man?
132Alas am I too cold, am I too dull,
133can I not love him as another could?
134And oh, if love be fire, what love is mine
135that is but like the pale subservient moon
136who only asks to be earth's minister?
137And, oh, if love be whirlwind, what is mine
138that is but like a little even brook
139which has no aim but flowing to the sea,
140and sings for happiness because it flows?
141Ah well, I would that I could love him more
142and not be only happy as I am;
143I would that I could love him to his worth,
144with that forgetting all myself in him,
145that subtle pain of exquisite excess,
146that momentary infinite sharp joy,
147I know by books but cannot teach my heart:
148and yet I think my love must needs be love,
149since he can read me through -- oh happy strange,
150my thoughts that were my secrets all for me
151grown instantly his open easy book! --
152since he can read me through, and is content.
153And yesterday, when they all went away,
154save little Amy with her daisy chains,
155and left us in that shadow of tall ferns,
156and the child, leaning on me, fell asleep,
157and I, tired by the afternoon long walk,
158said "I could almost gladly sleep like her,"
159did he not answer, drawing down my head,
160"Sleep, darling, let me see you rest on me,"
161and when the child, awaking, wakened me,
162did he not say "Dear, you have made me glad,
163for, seeing you so sleeping peacefully,
164I feel that you do love me utterly,
165no questionings, no regrettings, but at rest."
166Oh yes, my good true darling, you spoke well
167"No questionings, no regrettings, but at rest:"
168what should I question, what should I regret,
169now I have you who are my hope and rest?
170I am the feathery wind-wafted seed
171that flickered idly half a merry morn,
172now thralled into the rich life-giving earth
173to root and bud and waken into leaf
174and make it such poor sweetness as I may;
175the prisoned seed that never more shall float
176the frolic playfellow of summer winds
177and mimic the free changeful butterfly;
178the prisoned seed that prisoned finds its life
179and feels its pulses stir, and grows, and grows.
180Oh love, who gathered me into yourself,
181oh love, I am at rest in you, and live.
182And shall I for so many coming days
183be flower and sweetness to him? Oh pale flower,
184grow, grow, and blossom out, and fill the air,
185feed on his richness, grow, grow, blossom out,
186and fill the air, and be enough for him.
187Oh crystal music of the air-borne lark,
188so falling, nearer, nearer, from the sky,
189are you a message to me of dear hopes?
190oh trilling gladness, flying down to earth,
191have you brought answer of sweet prophecy?
192have you brought answer to the thoughts in me?
193Oh happy answer, and oh happy thoughts!
194and which is the bird's carol, which my heart's?
195My love, my love, my love! And I shall be
196so much to him, so almost everything:
197and I shall be the friend whom he will trust,
198and I shall be the child whom he will teach,
199and I shall be the servant he will praise,
200and I shall be the mistress he will love,
201and I shall be his wife. Oh days to come,
202will ye not pass like gentle rhythmic steps
203that fall to sweetest music noiselessly?
204But I have known the lark's song half sound sad,
205and I have seen the lake, which rippled sun,
206toss dimmed and purple in a sudden wind;
207and let me laugh a moment at my heart
208that thinks the summer-time must all be fair,
209that thinks the good days always must be good:
210yes let me laugh a moment -- may be weep.
211But no, but no, not laugh; for through my joy
212I have been wise enough to know the while
213some tears and some long hours are in all lives,
214in every promised land some thorn plants grow,
215some tangling weeds as well as laden vines:
216and no, not weep; for is not my land fair,
217my land of promise flushed with fruit and bloom?
218and who would weep for fear of scattered thorns?
219and very thorns bear oftentimes sweet fruits.
220Oh the black storm that breaks across the lake
221ruffles the surface, leaves the deeps at rest --
222deep in our hearts there always will be rest:
223oh summer storms fall sudden as they rose,
224the peaceful lake forgets them while they die --
225our hearts will always have it summer time.
226All rest, all summer time. My love, my love,
227I know it will be so; you are so good,
228and I, near you, shall grow at last like you;
229and you are tender, patient -- oh I know
230you will bear with me, help me, smile to me,
231and let me make you happy easily;
232and I, what happiness could I have more
233than that dear labour of a happy wife?
234I would not have another. Is it wrong,
235and is it selfish that I cannot wish,
236that I, who yet so love the clasping hand
237and innocent fond eyes of little ones,
238I cannot wish that which I sometimes read
239is women's dearest wish hid in their love,
240to press a baby creature to my breast?
241Oh is it wrong? I would be all for him,
242not even children coming 'twixt us two
243to call me from his service to serve them;
244and maybe they would steal too much of love,
245for, since I cannot love him now enough,
246what would my heart be halved? or would it grow?
247But he perhaps would love me something less,
248finding me not so always at his side.
249Together always, that was what he said;
250together always. Oh dear coming days!
251O dear dear present days that pass too fast,
252although they bring such rainbow morrows on!
253that pass so fast, and yet, I know not why,
254seem always to encompass so much time.
255And I should fear I were too happy now,
256and making this poor world too much my Heaven,
257but that I feel God nearer and it seems
258as if I had learned His love better too.
259So late already! The sun dropping down,
260and under him the first long line of red --
261my truant should be here again by now,
262is come maybe. I will not seek him, I;
263he would be vain and think I cared too much;
264I will wait here, and he shall seek for me,
265and I will carelessly -- Oh his dear step --
266he sees me, he is coming; my own love!
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2001