Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AGNES, by ELIZA KEARY

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AGNES, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: It's hard, but I don't wonder at mother
Last Line: Only find the good-bye and the violet.
Subject(s): Flowers; Seamstresses; Violets

AGNES, a young seamstress, sitting at work, talks to herself.

IT'S hard, but I don't wonder at mother --
Many a girl would be quite proud of him,
Older than I -- but, loved me from a child.
I only wonder at his faithfulness,
Coming and going those long voyages
After my weak half yes's and half no's,
Taking a hope out to the distant lands,
Bringing his love home in his heart again,
Then coming here, saying to me, "Agnes,
Are you well, sweetheart -- happy these long months
That were so long away from you, Agnes?"
(Long! they had passed passionately by me!)
It was so last evening -- the old story;
And I -- left mother to answer for me,
Whilst I sat wondering how such slow months
Had brought the spring so quickly round again;
The spring and Edward -- and oh! all these things
He gave me -- these. How I wish he wouldn't give
Me presents; I'm afraid, too, they may make
One reason why -- but no, I won't. Mother,
Poor dear mother -- she means kindly by me.
Some day I'll tell her -- shall I? -- about him,
Our hazard meetings and our secret love.
No; she'd only answer, "Marry Edward."

[She starts at the postman's knock, and comes back reading a letter.

From him. "Dear Agnes, I'm in town again.
Dearest, I pray you let me see you soon.
To-morrow, yes, to-morrow; let it be
To-morrow that we meet somewhere by some
Happy chance. You'll be taking your work back
To Jay's at twelve o'clock; there I shall be
Lounging, or strolling past. We shall not fail
Each other. Each other! what words, Agnes!
And I shall see those beautiful eyes again,
And catch a syllable from the dear lips
That will be bold this time and praise our luck
At meeting; and you, dearest, cease to fret
About our difference, or this secresy."

[She folds the note and sits down listlessly.

I wish, oh! how I wish, but of what use --
He a young lord, and I a needlewoman.
What clasp of hearts can bridge our difference?
I think my heart could reach across to him,
But does his love stretch far enough towards me?
To-morrow -- in secret, just as it was
Last time. To-morrow! O Love, to-morrow!

Enter EDWARD, a sailor, with violets in his hand, which he offers to

"Nay, dear, to-day. Yes, say to-day, Agnes.
Let this day be the happy day of days
When you say 'Yes' to me. Child, there are years
Behind my love. Give me the little Yes
I've waited for and come to ask of you
Once, twice, and thrice -- how many times, Agnes?
Be my sweet love, my little wife, my home,
My fair wind and my sunny port."

-- "Edward,
Cease, cease. Look here -- do you see this corner
Of a letter hidden in my bosom?
No! -- it's not good enough for you to touch,
But oh! too precious for you to see. I'll
Hide it away. Yes, you may take my hands;
I'll even lean my head against you once,
And once speak out. Edward, there's not a spark
Of love for you in all my being. Oh!
Not love, love as I know it. I pity you.
Never let mother tell you that I love;
Never believe her, Edward, if she says 't.
I was afraid of her. Now go, and don't
Come back to me -- oh! never mind the violets,
Lay them down anywhere, only leave me.

[She looks up, as he does no move.

Do go Edward."

-- "Yes, I'm going, Agnes.
One word -- God bless you, darling, as I do."

Thank God he's gone, and there's one right thing done,
One honest work in all my web of wrong.
Now for another. Meet you -- God! I think
I should have met him but for Edward's love,
That holy, worthless, hated, honoured love.
Now I'll -- ah! what shall I do -- meet him? no.
But I do love him; why, here's his letter --
The preciousest thing I have, the wickedest,
Dearest, worst -- lies in my bosom, nestles
Next my heart -- it is my heart. "To-morrow
We shall meet somewhere -- shall not fail" -- dear words --
"Each other." Yes, my love.

[Covers her eyes with her hands, looks up again, and says: --

Well, I suppose
I must write a letter and say -- something;
That I can't come -- that mother's ill -- that I'm
Engaged to Edward -- ha! that I won't come,
That he must claim me here for his own wife
If he would see my beautiful eyes again.

No! here's my letter. "This is good-bye
To you from Agnes

(puts a violet in the paper)

and here's a violet
For you from Agnes." Sealed with a kiss -- there,
There, and there, and there; a thousand kisses,
And a thousand thousand loves. Ah! but he'll
Only find the good-bye and the violet.

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