Amy’s Cruelty by Elizabeth Barrett Browning


Fair Amy of the terraced house,
Assist me to discover
Why you who would not hurt a mouse
Can torture so your lover.


You give your coffee to the cat,
You stroke the dog for coming,
And all your face grows kinder at
The little brown bee’s humming.


But when he haunts your door … the town
Marks coming and marks going …
You seem to have stitched your eyelids down
To that long piece of sewing!


You never give a look, not you,
Nor drop him a “Good morning,”
To keep his long day warm and blue,
So fretted by your scorning.


She shook her head–“The mouse and bee
For crumb or flower will linger:
The dog is happy at my knee,
The cat purrs at my finger.


“But he… to him, the least thing given
Means great things at a distance;
He wants my world, my sun, my heaven,
Soul, body, whole existence.


“They say love gives as well as takes;
But I’m a simple maiden,–
My mother’s first smile when she wakes
I still have smiled and prayed in.


“I only know my mother’s love
Which gives all and asks nothing;
And this new loving sets the groove
Too much the way of loathing.


“Unless he gives me all in change,
I forfeit all things by him:
The risk is terrible and strange–
I tremble, doubt, … deny him.


“He’s sweetest friend or hardest foe,
Best angel or worst devil;
I either hate or … love him so,
I can’t be merely civil!

See also  Brother, Rest (In Memory Of The Rev. J. E. V.) by Mrs J C Yule


“You trust a woman who puts forth
Her blossoms thick as summer’s?
You think she dreams what love is worth,
Who casts it to new-comers?


“Such love’s a cowslip-ball to fling,
A moment’s pretty pastime;
I give … all me, if anything,
The first time and the last time.


“Dear neighbour of the trellised house,
A man should murmur never,
Though treated worse than dog and mouse,
Till doated on for ever!”

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