Pine, Rose and Fleur de Lis

by Susie Frances Harrison


 

HAPPY!


 

  I.

 
So. You are “happy,” she says—this girl-friend of mine!
I’d cry in a minute—how little she knows—
But that I’m afraid—her own eyes are quick eyes to divine
The substance beneath all such honeymoon shows—
She is right—you are happy. I dare
5
To doubt both your smile and your succulent satisfied air!
 
II.

“Clarice, but leave me!” I cried. Then she crept from the cliff,
For I stamped with my foot and I covered my ears.
I was selfish—mad—stung—stabbed—what! we have a tiff?
We true friends in trouble, true Clarice in tears?
10
My Clarice, forgive me! For men
Have women forgot other women again and again.
 
III.

Happy! I could not but hear it, long after she spoke.
So. Happy—and sitting at home by the fire,
Or, happy—and out for a walk where the rivulet broke
15
Into foam at my feet. where the scent of the brier
Stole sweet on the air—I dream
Together we stroll by the lucent and shimmering stream!
 
IV.

And now it’s all over, you thought, I expect, like a man,
I’d come—sly—between you, and ruffle your peace;
20
Write letters—was that it—and weave in anonymous plan
A snare for the lady, your wife. No. Her lease
Of your love, Sir, is her’s. I dispute
With no one about you, walk steady and quiet, keep mute.
 
V.

Yet I know you have never so trusted me; feared, have you not,
25
When the mail was brought in, or put down by her plate,
Bent down the next moment with fingers all trembling and hot
To stroke the meek head or to see, was it straight,
The writing, or backhand and fierce.
There is power then in handwriting? God! I know how it can
30
  pierce!  
 
VI.

Then when you have left her alone all a long afternoon,
I know you have feared to return and to open the door;
My voice—did you hear her form—was it huddled in swoon.
Or low on her knees did she weep and implore?
I know you have pictured the worst;
35
I feel you have wanted me dead, or living, accursed.
 
VII.

But then you are happy. You told her to tell me, afraid
I might think the reverse—so—cling to the past,
Disturb you in wooing, burst in with my hair out of braid,
Be once more the genius and leave her aghast—
40
“She’s worse than I thought. Go to!
Such women were never, my lover, intended for you.”
 
VIII.

No, no, it is clear they were not. Too earnest by half;
Too earnest? The word’s a reproach to your type!
To be earnest at all is a folly. I hear your low laugh,
45
You smother a smile as my eyelids you wipe.
Yes, at least you did that. My tears!
What sorrow was mine a year back for your eyes and your ears!
 
IX.

And yet as I wept on your shoulder, I knew all the while,
Your eyes were not lamps set to guide;

50
Your lips, not lips moving with pity but curved in a smile,
Such as she never sees in a fright at her side,
You are careful, I know. You wear
Always in her presence that satisfied confident air.
 
X.

Marriage is sweet, I suppose. You feel she’s your own,
55
And should you fall ill, she can sit in a chair
Quite near to your bedside, keep up the dim tone
Of pale sickbed sentiment, measure, prepare
Your physic and phials. Your want
Was greater last year in that brier-sweetened, blossoming
60
  haunt!  
 
XI.

Why, then it was art, books and music, the drone-bee instinct!
Together we weighed worlds, dissected the sun;
Praised Pater, and Darwin, made notes, got our fingers well
  inked,    
Together wove verses, made many a pun.
We were equals in all things. Your mate
65
You declared you had found and from sympathy Love sprang
  straight.    
 
XII.

But then you grew tired. Men do—of a woman like me.
You were not quite at ease; my inviolate mind
Was quicker and fresher from study, you hated to see
How aptly I quoted—you hated to find
70
Your peer in a woman. Be just,
O my friend, you might leave us that much, spare us that jealous
  thrust!    
 
XIII.

Cold comfort in coins and conchology, yet all the while
A kind of equivalent. Women have changed,
They love, suffer, love again, live on a glance or a smile
75
For a season till fancy has ebbed, glance has ranged,
Then they turn to, and study. Why, see—
It was after we parted, I crammed, conquered, took my degree!
 
XIV.

Sweet solace in science for women as well as for men
Is part of our high education. To jilt
80
May be still your prerogative. Now with a stroke of the pen,
Or a wave of the brush, we blot out the tears split—
We endure now like you. At times
We marry, like you, and like you, put ourselves in our rhymes.
 
XV.

Already life smacks of an interest in men and in things;
85
The mortar-board’s heavy but suited to curls
That grow -- recollect, Sir—like mine in close heavy brown rings.
My future is safe—I—at least, unlike girls
Who die in their longing—I rise
To full height and true measure. I welcome the sorrow that tries.
90
 
XVI.

I write, Sir, a poem about you. You’ll read and you’ll laugh,
Then curse—lest the wife should but guess it—no name,
Even Clarice a feigned one, yet matter too faithful by half
To your story and mine. Never fear; your fair fame
In the world is unscathed. You care
95
More for that than for anything—wives, they may suffer and
  stare.  

 


 

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