Week 201: The Homecoming, by Anna Wickham

Anna Wickham (the pen-name of Edith Alice Mary Harper, 1883–1947) wrote this sad poem after her husband was killed in an accident in 1929. The marriage had been a troubled one: he was a solicitor who would have preferred his wife to be less bohemian and was hostile to her poetry-writing, while she came to despise his middle-class respectability, which explains why her grief in the poem is compounded by more than the usual measure of regret for what might have been, should have been and had not been.

The Homecoming

I waited ten years in the husk
That once had been our home,
Watching from dawn to dusk
To see if he would come.

And there he was beside me
Always at board and bed;
I looked – and woe betide me
He I had loved was dead.

He fell at night on the hillside,
They brought him home to his place,
I had not the solace of sorrow
Till I had looked at his face.

Then I clasped the broken body
To see if it breathed or moved,
For there, in the smile of his dying,
Was the gallant man I had loved.

O wives come lend me your weeping,
I have not enough of tears,
For he is dead who was sleeping
These ten accursed years.

Anna Wickham

Week 83: The Fired Pot, by Anna Wickham

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.

Anna Wickham