Adam and Eve, Boldwood and Bathsheba, Burden stitch, cloths of Heaven, crewel, Die Walkure, George Bernard Shaw, Kelmscott, May Morris, Pre-Raphaelite, Primrose Hill, Sergius and Raina, Sparling, Superman, The Golden Stair, Tree of Life, Valentine card
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.
Beauty is fleeting-
traded for brief affairs.
Women’s hair attracts men,
less so their inveterate chat.
A powerful man
can become a girl’s plaything,
manipulated by tears.
Like fierce rutting stags,
men pick up the scent and fight,
to out-do others.
One year they’ll be old –
antlers broken – and banished.