Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
The Red-haired Man’s Wife
By James Stephens (1882–1950)
I HAVE taken that vow—
  And you were my friend
But yesterday—now
  All that ’s at an end,
And you are my husband, and claim me, and I must depend.        5
Yesterday I was free,
  Now you, as I stand,
Walk over to me
  And take hold of my hand.
You look at my lips, your eyes are too bold, your smile is too bland.        10
My old name is lost,
  My distinction of race:
Now the line has been cross’d,
  Must I step to your pace?
Must I walk as you list, and obey, and smile up in your face?        15
All the white and the red
  Of my cheeks you have won;
All the hair of my head,
  And my feet, tho’ they run,
Are yours, and you own me and end me just as I begun.        20
Must I bow when you speak,
  Be silent and hear,
Inclining my cheek
  And incredulous ear
To your voice, and command, and behest, hold your lightest wish dear?        25
I am woman, but still
  Am alive, and can feel
Every intimate thrill
  That is woe or is weal.
I, aloof, and divided, apart, standing far, can I kneel?        30
O, if kneeling were right,
  I should kneel nor be sad,
And abase in your sight
  All the pride that I had,
I should come to you, hold to you, cling to you, call to you, glad.        35
If not, I shall know,
  I shall surely find out,
And your world will throw
  In disaster and rout;
I am woman and glory and beauty, I mystery, terror, and doubt.        40
I am separate still,
  I am I and not you:
And my mind and my will,
  As in secret they grew,
Still are secret, unreach’d and untouch’d and not subject to you.        45

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