The Woman Speaks

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The Woman Speaks
written by John Masefield
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This poem appeared to me in a dream one winter morning some years ago. In the dream I was aware of a tall lady, dressed for out-of-doors, with furs and a picture hat. I was aware, at the same time, of the whole of her past life, and of the fact that she was looking for the first time south-westwards upon Lincoln’s Inn Fields, early on a calm, sunny Sunday morning. I saw the Fields as she did, in utter calm, as from the north-eastern pavement; the pigeons were picking food, the sun was shining, each brick and stone was distinct. I was aware of the fact that she had suddenly realized that life might be quiet like this, and that were it so, it would be wonderful. At the same time, I was intensely aware of the whole of this poem, which explained her past, what she saw and what she felt. As she passed out of the dream, the whole of the poem appeared engraven in high relief on an oblong metal plate, from which I wrote it down.

Bitter it is, indeed, in human fate
When life’s supreme temptation comes too late.
I had a ten years’ schooling, where I won
Prizes for headache and caparison.
I married well; I kept a husband warm
With twenty general years of gentle charm.
We wandered much, where’er our kind resort,
But not till Sunday to the Inns of Court.
So then imagine what a joy to see
The town’s grey, vast and unappeasèd sea
Suddenly still, and what a hell to learn
Life might be quiet, could I but return.


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