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A Minimum of Kindness


(May Morris, 1872.  Wikipedia.  Rossetti Archive; Bridgeman Images)


George Bernard Shaw:


She felt we had a mystic betrothal.

Her eyes betrayed some kind of assent.

Well, like her card, I found her quite handsome.

She asked for a minimum of kindness.


She’d shown maidens worshipping at my shrine,

but I was with a mature woman then.

Did she want me to cast cloths of heaven,

such as she embroidered, under her feet?


I tried to tread softly on all her dreams.

I was a bachelor then and too poor

to act as Sergius to her Raina.

(I hadn’t written my wretched play yet!)


Only a Superman could support her.

One minute she was roof-riding Kelmscott;

then absorbed as a domestic goddess,

designing tangles of honeysuckle,


which I now realise is dependent

and not parasitic, as I once feared.

Hmm, should women send men Valentine cards?

I think she had read too many novels.


I was no Boldwood to her Bathsheba.

She married Sparling in a fit of pique!

At least we remained friends.  I went to see

her when he was away. We walked over


Primrose Hill; listened to Die Walküre.

I was marginally more excited

than staying at home to watch my paint dry.

Now she stands alone on The Golden Stair.


Later she wrote and made sure that I knew

that she was a remarkable woman.

Was this to stick a crewel into me,

pricking the Burden stitch into my heart?


How many times did May sew that Tree of Life?

I would not play Adam to her Eve:

it was a matter of independence,

but this Tree finally caused my downfall.