A Failure

(She speaks.)

I meant to be so strong and true!
    The world may smile and question, When?
But what I might have been to you
    I cannot be to other men.
Just one in twenty to the rest,
    And all in all to you alone,—
This was my dream; perchance 'tis best
    That this, like other dreams, is flown.

For you I should have been so kind,
    So prompt my spirit to control,
To win fresh vigor for my mind,
    And purer beauties for my soul;
Beneath your eye I might have grown
    To that divine, ideal height,
Which, mating wholly with your own,
    Our equal spirits should unite.

To others I am less than naught;
    To you I might have been so much,
Could but your calm, discerning thought
    Have put my powers to the touch!
Your love had made me doubly fair;
    Your wisdom made me thrice as wise,
Lent clearer lustre to my hair,
    And read new meanings in my eyes.

Ah, yes, to you I might have been
    That happy being, past recall,
The slave, the helpmeet, and the queen,—
    All these in one, and one in all.
But that which I had dreamed to do
    I learned too late was dreamed in vain,
For what I might have been to you
    I cannot be to other men.

This poem originally ran under the byline Edith Jones, Wharton's name until 1885, when she married and took her husband's surname.