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,


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


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


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.


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.


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,


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,


Running to fat, but dependable as they come.


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