The Ballad of the Heiress
She grew up discontented with the men
who hung around her simpering at balls.
And being told you’re beautiful soon palls
when people say it time and time again
and never change the words the slightest bit
to indicate they’d noticed her new gown
or that her hair was up, chignonned or down.
They loved her for her beauty, not her wit
And mostly loved her for her father’s wealth
the London house, the Gloucestershire estate.
Resentment poisoned everything she ate
She brooded on it, and it wrecked her health.
And if they laughed at the smart things she said,
it wasn’t that they cared or even heard
she could be poignant, charming or absurd.
She often kept her best lines in her head
rather than waste them on these silly fops.
She thought of all the ennui that she felt
as ice around her that would one day melt
and flood away, that now just drips, and drops.
Like water torture but from the inside
driving her mad, until it drives her sane.
She knows that she can leave behind the pain
and so writes vicious novels that deride
the tiresome dances, and the dinners grim,
proposals born from sheer financial greed,
adulterous lust flourishing like a weed,
and love destroyed by one mad moment’s whim.
Writing changed little in her boring life.
No one suspected that she wrote those books
None of her suitors gives her funny looks
-each one eviscerated by her knife
and left a bleeding shell upon her page
is far too dim ever to recognize
their character seen through another’s eyes.
She is the finest writer of the age
but does not take the credit for her work
for fear of father who might disapprove.
She cares not for his money, but his love.
The man’s as big a tyrant as a Turk
but yet is her dear parent.Then he dies.
And so her name’s embossed in fine gold leaf
on each of her six books. Such a relief
that people know, though there is no surprise,
they say, and people guessed it all the time.
The King is pleased to ask her round to tea,
suggests she’d care to write a history
of his great house, perhaps do it in rhyme.
She bars the avid suitors from her door
avoids the season, doesn’t find it hard
to sit at home to write. Then gets a card
from some young girl she’s never met before.
Who’s an admirer.When she comes to dine
the girl has read each novel twice at least
despises all their heroes. ‘He’s a beast’
she says of each, and she can quote each line
the author gave the character to show
his worthless character and lack of charm
the chances that he means some awful harm
to her narrator, who will just say no
when he proposes, and reject his suit.
She asks the girl to stay another day,
which stretches out. She never goes away.
In fact the pair of them never set foot
outside of the estate for several years
of mutual attention and respect
for beauty, wit, kindness and intellect.
A life of laughter hardly mixed with tears
She writes just one more book. Her happiness
is its great subject and the girl she’s found.
You’ll find the book in fifteen volumes bound
reissued just last year by Women’s Press.