James Kenneth Stephen
After the Golden Wedding (Three Soliloquies)
I. The husband's.
She's not a faultless woman; no!
She's not an angel in disguise:
She has her rivals here below:
She's not an unexampled prize:
She does not always see the point
Of little jests her husband makes:
And, when the world is out of joint,
She makes a hundred small mistakes:
She's not a miracle of tact:
Her temper's not the best I know:
She's got her little faults in fact,
Although I never tell her so.
But this, my wife, is why I hold you
As good a wife as ever stepped,
And why I meant it when I told you
How cordially our feast I kept:
You've lived with me these fifty years,
And all the time you loved me dearly:
I may have given you cause for tears:
I may have acted rather queerly.
I ceased to love you long ago:
I loved another for a season:
As time went on I came to know
Your worth, my wife: and saw the reason
Why such a wife as you have been
Is more than worth the world beside;
You loved me all the time, my Queen;
You couldn't help it if you tried.
You loved me as I once loved you,
As each loved each beside the altar:
And whatsoever I might do,
Your loyal heart could never falter.
And, if you sometimes fail me, sweetest,
And don't appreciate me, dear,
No matter: such defects are meetest
For poor humanity, I fear.
And all's forgiven, all's forgot,
On this our golden wedding day;
For, see! she loves me: does she not?
So let the world e'en go its way.
I'm old and nearly useless now,
Each day a greater weakling proves me:
There's compensation anyhow:
I still possess a wife that loves me.
2. The wife's.
Dear worthy husband! good old man!
Fit hero of a golden marriage:
I'll show towards you, if I can,
And absolutely wifely carriage.
The months or years which your career
May still comprise before you perish,
Shall serve to prove that I, my dear,
Can honour, and obey, and cherish.
Till death us part, as soon he must,
(And you, my dear, should shew the way)
I hope you'll always find me just
The same as on our wedding day.
I never loved you, dearest: never!
Let that be clearly understood:
I thought you good, and rather clever,
And found you really rather good.
And, what was more, I loved another,
But couldn't get him: well, but, then
You're just as bad, my erring brother,
You most impeccable of men:--
Except for this: my love was married
Some weeks before I married you:
While you, my amorous dawdler, tarried
Till we'd been wed a year or two.
You loved me at our wedding: I
Loved some one else: and after that
I never cast a loving eye
On others: you -- well, tit for tat!
But after all I made you cheerful:
Your whims I've humoured: saw the point
Of all your jokes: grew duly tearful,
When you were sad, yet chose the joint
You liked the best of all for dinner,
And soothed you in your hours of woe:
Although a miserable sinner,
I am a good wife, as wives go.
I bore with you and took your side,
And kept my temper all the time:
I never flirted; never cried,
No ranked it as a heinous crime,
When you preferred another lady,
Or used improper words to me,
Or told a story more than shady,
Or snored and snorted after tea,
Or otherwise gave proofs of being
A dull and rather vain old man:
I still succeeded in agreeing
With all you said, (the safest plan),
Yet always strove my point to carry,
And make you do as I desired:
I'm glad my people made me marry!
They hit on just what I required.
Had love been wanted - well, I couldn't
Have given what I'd not to give;
Or had a genius asked me! wouldn't
The man have suffered? now, we live
Among our estimable neighbours
A decent and decorous life:
I've earned by my protracted labours
The title of a model wife.
But when beneath the turf you're sleeping,
And I'm sitting here in black,
Engaged, as they'll suppose, in weeping,
I shall not wish to have you back.
3. The Vicar's.
A good old couple! kind and wise!
And oh! what love for one another!
They've won, those two, life's highest prize,
Oh! let us copy them, my brother.
James Kenneth Stephen's Other Poems
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