Amy's Cruelty is a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

There's a lot of reasons to appreciate this poem. It's quite well-written, technically speaking. It was written by a woman, and who is recognized and appreciated as being a fine poet, quite an accomplishment for the 19th century.

But Amy.. don't you just want to pick her up and hug her and tell her it will all be okay? I read this poem and I hear George Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me" hauntingly played in the background. Amy is a "simple maiden," who doesn't ask much out of life. She's content with flowers and animals, and her sewing, and terrified of love. Because she knows it could tear her apart, and she doesn't know how to love without losing all reason or logic. She's an all or nothing kind of girl. And while it's not the safest way to play the game, you've got to love her for it.

Amy's Cruelty

Fair Amy of the terraced house,
Assist me to discover
Why you who would not hurt a mouse
Can torture so your lover.

You give your coffee to the cat,
You stroke the dog for coming,
And all your face grows kinder at
The little brown bee's humming.

But when he haunts your door. . . the town
Marks coming and marks going. . .
You seem to have stitched your eyelids down
To that long piece of sewing!

You never give a look, not you,
Nor drop him a "Good morning,"
To keep his long day warm and blue,
So fretted by your scorning.

She shook her head: "The mouse and bee
For crumb and flower will linger;
The dog is happy at my knee,
The cat purrs at my finger.

"But he. . . to him, the least thing given
Means great things at a distance;
He wants my world, my sun, my heaven,
Soul, body, whole existence.

"They say love gives as well as takes;
But I'm a simple maiden,--
My mother's first smile when she wakes
I still have smiled and prayed in.

"I only know my mother's love
Which gives all and asks nothing,
And this new loving sets the groove
Too much the way of loathing.

"Unless he gives me all in change,
I forfeit all things by him;
The risk is terrible and strange--
I tremble, doubt,. . . deny him.

"He's sweetest friend, or hardest foe,
Best angel, or worst devil;
I either hate or. . . love him so,
I can't be merely civil!

"You trust a woman who puts forth
Her blossoms thick as summer's?
You think she dreams what love is worth,
Who casts it to new-comers?

"Such love's a cowslip-ball to fling,
A moment's pretty pastime;
I give. . . all me, if anything,
The first time and the last time.

"Dear neighbor of the trellised house,
A man should murmur never,
Though treated worse than dog and mouse,
Till doted on forever!"

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.