Poems of the Week

Regarding the Envelope*

by Eddie Aderne

“A newly published letter, written by TS Eliot in 1960, has shed fresh light on the writer’s relationship with a woman he corresponded with for 26 years. …
Eliot wrote hundreds of letters to Hale while he was married to his first wife, Vivienne Haigh-Wood.
The letters were unsealed this week at Princeton University in New Jersey.
Their unsealing prompted the publication of Eliot’s letter, which he had said should only be released when his letters to Hale were made public.”
—BBC News

It has come to my ears that Miss Emily Hale
Is glossing my letters. Bad taste on this scale
Compels me to issue a record, although
I shudder to put what is private on show.
In Harvard at Graduate School, I declared
The love that Miss Hale has now vulgarly aired;
From Oxford in 1914, I addressed
Some letters where friendship alone was expressed.
The years wed to Vivienne Haigh-Wood I found
Sheer agony, but for the praises of Pound;
And yet, though the nightmare we jointly endured
Drove me to “The Waste Land,” and her to a ward,
She did let the poet inside me prevail,
And saved me from marrying Emily Hale.
I saw, with poor Vivienne sadly deceased,
I was not in love with Miss Hale in the least:
That what I had taken for love was, in truth,
A memory only of love in my youth;
And it was impossible not to divine
Her deafness to verse, in particular mine.
Though maybe she loved, my opinions meant less
To her than her uncle’s, whose mind was a mess;
Although Unitarian, still she’d prefer
The Anglican rites, quite improper for her;
And lastly (insensitive, surely, and coarse)
She did not respect my beliefs on divorce.
When Vivienne died, I observed that, at most,
My love was the love of a ghost for a ghost;
I hereby record this, before my decease.
We never had sex. May we all rest in peace.

* Italicized phrases verbatim from the letter.