Marital fidelity, while admirable in real life, does not seem to get much of a write-up in art, and I suppose it has to be admitted that the Western canon would not be quite the same if Helen had been less accommodating to Paris, if Lancelot had been content to worship Guinevere from afar, if Paolo and Francesca had stuck to reading the book, and if Anna Karenina had told Vronsky to get lost. Still, moral restraint has at least given us ‘Brief Encounter’, and also this wry poem by Anna Wickham (1884-1947).
The Fired Pot
In our town, people live in rows.
The only irregular thing in a street is the steeple;
And where that points to, God only knows,
And not the poor disciplined people!
And I have watched the women growing old,
Passionate about pins, and pence, and soap,
Till the heart within my wedded breast grew cold,
And I lost hope.
But a young soldier came to our town,
He spoke his mind most candidly.
He asked me quickly to lie down,
And that was very good for me.
For though I gave him no embrace —
Remembering my duty —
He altered the expression of my face,
And gave me back my beauty.