Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Overheard at the Counter: Dover 2 (Dover Trilogy)

The Dover Bitch
by Anthony Hecht

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, 'Try to be true to me,
And I'll do the same for you, for things are bad
All over, etc., etc.'
Well now, I knew this girl. It's 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 the 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 mustn't judge her by that. What I mean to say is,
She's 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 it's 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 d' Amour.

"I'd read this one also in college.  I thought at the time it was an interesting 'update' to Dover Beach, a modern take on it, and I appreciated it for humanizing the woman.  Years later, now to me it seems almost as patronizing patriarchal as the original.  At least this one gives the woman SOME autonomy, but damn if it isn't the whole 'same time next year' casual trysts and what's the 'she's running to fat BUT dependable' all about?  She's plumping out but she can still give the narrator a boner?  But hey, as long as he brings her some perfume right?   Honestly, reading this now, it's like women can't get away from being forced into little cages, little boxes, little pockets, little lines.  I'll never know how it feels, but God it must be damned frustrating to be a woman."

No comments:

Post a Comment