Augusta Davies Webster

Here you will find the Long Poem Tired of poet Augusta Davies Webster


No not to-night, dear child; I cannot go; 
I'm busy, tired; they knew I should not come; 
you do not need me there. Dear, be content, 
and take your pleasure; you shall tell me of it. 
There, go to don your miracles of gauze, 
and come and show yourself a great pink cloud. 

So, she has gone with half a discontent; 
but it will die before her curls are shaped, 
and she'll go forth intent on being pleased, 
and take her ponderous pastime like the rest-- 
patient delightedly, prepared to talk 
in the right voice for the right length of time 
on any thing that anybody names, 
prepared to listen with the proper calm 
to any song that anybody sings; 
wedged in their chairs, all soberness and smiles, 
one steady sunshine like an August day: 
a band of very placid revellers, 
glad to be there but gladder still to go. 
She like the rest: it seems so strange to me, 
my simple peasant girl, my nature's grace, 
one with the others; my wood violet 
stuck in a formal rose box at a show. 

Well, since it makes her happier. True I thought 
the artless girl, come from her cottage home 
knowing no world beyond her village streets, 
come stranger into our elaborate life 
with such a blithe and wondering ignorance 
as a young child's who sees new things all day, 
would learn it my way and would turn to me 
out of the solemn follies "What are these? 
why must we live by drill and laugh by drill; 
may we not be ourselves then, you and I?" 
I thought she would have nestled here by me 
"I cannot feign, and let me stay with you." 
I thought she would have shed about my life 
the unalloyed sweet freshness of the fields 
pure from your cloying fashionable musks: 
but she "will do what other ladies do"-- 
my sunburnt Madge I saw, with skirts pinned up, 
carrying her father's dinner where he sat 
to take his noon-day rest beneath the hedge, 
and followed slowly for her clear loud song. 

And she did then, she says, as others did 
who were her like. 'Tis logical enough: 
as every woman lives, (tush! as we all, 
following such granted patterns for our souls 
as for our hats and coats), she lived by rules 
how to be as her neighbours, though I, trained 
to my own different code, discerned it not 
(mistaking other laws for lawlessness, 
like raw and hasty travellers): and now 
why should she, in a new world, all unapt 
to judge its judgments, take so much on her 
she did not in her old world, pick and choose 
her pleasures and her tastes, her aims, her faiths, 
breaking her smooth path with the thorny points 
of upstart questions? She is just a bird 
born in a wicker cage and brought away 
into a gilded one: she does not pine 
to make her nest in uncontrolled far woods, 
but, unconceiving freedom, chirrups on, 
content to see her prison bars so bright. 

Yes, best for her; and, if not best for me, 
I've my fault in it too: she's logical, 
but what am I, who, having chosen her 
for being all unlike the tutored type, 
next try and mould her to it--chose indeed 
my violet for being not a rose, 
then bade it hold itself as roses do, 
that passers by may note no difference? 
The peasant ways must go, the homely burr, 
the quaint strong English--ancient classic turns 
mixed up with rustic blunders and misuse, 
old grammar shot with daring grammarlessness; 
the village belle's quick pertness, toss of head, 
and shriek of saucy laughter--graces there, 
and which a certain reckless gracefulness, 
half hoydenish, half fawnlike, made in her 
graces in even my eyes ... there; the ease 
of quick companionship; the unsoftened "no's;" 
the ready quarrels, ready makings up; 
all these must go, I would not have her mocked 
among the other women who have learned 
sweet level speech and quiet courtesies-- 
and then they jarred upon me like the noise 
of music out of rule, which, heard at first, 
took the fresh ear with novel melody, 
but makes you restless, listened to too long, 
with missing looked for rhythms. So I teach, 
or let her learn, the way to speak, to look, 
to walk, to sit, to dance, to sing, to laugh, 
and then ...... the prized dissimilarity 
was outer husk and not essential core: 
my wife is just the wife my any friend 
selects among my any friend's good girls, 
(a duplicate except that here and there 
the rendering's faulty or touched in too strong); 
my little rugged bit of gold I mined, 
cleared from its quartz and dross and pieced for use 
with recognized alloy, is minted down 
one of a million stamped and current coins. 

My poor dear Madge, it half seems treasonous 
to let regret touch any thought of you, 
loyal and loving to me as you are; 
and you are very very dear to me, 
I could not spare you, would not