Anthony Hecht
The Dover Bitch (1968)

 

A Criticism of Life

For Andrews Wanning

 

 

So there stood Matthew Arnold and this girl

 

With the cliffs of England crumbling away behind them,

 

And he said to her ďTry to be true to me,

4

And Iíll do the same for you, for things are bad

 

All over, etc., etc.Ē

 

Well now, I knew this girl. Itís true she had read

 

Sophocles in a fairly good translation

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And caught that bitter allusion to the sea,

 

But all the time he was talking she had in mind

 

The notion of what his whiskers would feel like

 

On the back of her neck. She told me later on

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That after a while she got to looking out

 

At lights across the channel, and really felt sad,

 

Thinking of all the wine and enormous beds

 

And blandishments in French and the perfumes.

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And then she got really angry. To have been brought

 

All the way down from London, and then be addressed

 

As a sort of mournful cosmic last resort

 

Is really tough on a girl, and she was pretty.

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Anyway, she watched him pace the room

 

And finger his watch-chain and seem to sweat a bit,

 

And then she said one or two unprintable things.

 

But you mustnít judge her by that. What I mean to say is,

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Sheís really all right. I still see her once in a while

 

And she always treats me right. We have a drink

 

And I give her a good time, and perhaps itís a year

 

Before I see her again, but there she is,

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Running to fat, but dependable as they come.

 

And sometimes I bring her a bottle of Nuit dí Amour.