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.
(Cranach the Elder: Uffizi- Adam and Eve)
In the hortus clausus of Paradise,
Adam and Eve were naked, without shame;
partook of luscious fruits’ delectation
and yet, both were subject to temptation
and yielded. God then issued His calm denunciation:
expelled, they entered a marred Creation.
They wanted to be lords of Creation;
were not content to live in Paradise.
Adam, quick in his denunciation
of his wife and, both wearing leaves of shame,
blamed the wily serpent for temptation.
Forbidden knowledge was delectation.
And, oh the price of that delectation:
to have usurped the Lord of Creation!
Over-weening hearts, prey to temptation,
caused them to exchange Earthly Paradise
for lives of labour, childbirth pain and shame
and inter-gender denunciation.
Lest we jump to denunciation
of the Almighty, His delectation
in His creatures was His aim. Death and shame
were never endgames in His Creation.
But how could there be sin in Paradise?
Free will left them open to temptation.
Yes, automata feel no temptation:
adoration, or denunciation
of God both possible in Paradise.
Disobedience was their delectation;
they wanted to be Lords of Creation,
yet, till their eyes were opened, felt no shame.
Do we repeat the arrogance and shame
in excusing ourselves our temptation?
Have we now lost Free Will? Does Creation
struggle under God’s denunciation?
There was One, Who said His delectation
was to obey and He left Paradise.
We, His new creation; delectation!
Conquering shame, temptation, He opened,
Paradise; cancelled denunciation.