She was too kind, wooed too persistently,
Wrote moving letters to me day by day;
The more she wrote, the more unmoved was I,
The more she gave, the less could I repay.
Therefore I grieve, not that I was not loved,
But that, being loved, I could not love again.
I liked, but like and love are far removed;
Hard though I tried to love I tried in vain.
For she was plain and lame and fat and short,
Forty and over-kind. Hence it befell
That though I loved her in a certain sort,
Yet did I love too wisely but not well.
Ah! had she been more beauteous or less kind
She might have found me of another mind.
And now, though twenty years are come and gone,
That little lame lady's face is with me still;
Never a day but what, on every one,
She dwells with me, as dwell she ever will.
She said she wished I knew not wrong from right;
It was not that; I knew, and would have chosen
Wrong if I could, but, in my own despite,
Power to choose wrong in my chilled veins was frozen.
'Tis said that if a woman woo, no man
Should leave her till she have prevailed; and, true,
A man will yield for pity, if he can,
But if the flesh rebels what can he do?
I could not. Hence I grieve my whole life long
The wrong I did, in that I did no wrong.
Had I been some young sailor, continent
Perforce three weeks and then well plied with wine,
I might in time have tried to yield consent
And almost (though I doubt it) made her mine.
Or had it been but once and never again,
Come what come might, she should have had her way;
But yielding once were yielding twice, and then
I had been hers for ever and a day.
Or had she only been content to crave
A marriage of true minds, her wish was granted;
My mind was hers, I was her willing slave
In all things else except the one she wanted:
And here, alas! at any rate to me
She was an all too, too impossible she.
Samuel Butler (1805-1932)