Framed in her phoenix fire-screen, Edna Ward Bends to the tray of Canton, pouring tea For frightened Mrs. Plath; then, turning toward The pale, slumped daughter, and my wife, and me. Asks if we would prefer it weak or strong. Will we have milk or lemon, she enquires? The visit seems already strained and long. Each in his turn, we tell her our desires. It is my office to exemplify The published poet in his happiness, Thus cheering Sylvia, who has wished to die; But half-ashamed, and impotent to bless. I am a stupid life-guard who has found, Swept to his shallows by the tide, a girl Who, far from shore, has been immensely drowned, And stares through water now with eyes of pearl. How large is her refusal; and how slight The genteel chat whereby we recommend Life, of a summer afternoon, despite The brewing dusk which hints that it may end. And Edna Ward shall die in fifteen years, After her eight-and-eighty summers of Such grace and courage as permit no tears, The thin hand reaching out, the last word love. Outliving Sylvia who, condemned to live, Shall study for a decade, as she must, To state at last her brilliant negative In poems free and helpless and unjust.[The following note has been provided by Richard Wilbur:] "Edna Ward was Mrs. Herbert D. Ward, my wife's mother. The poet Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) was the daughter of one of Mrs. Ward's Wellesley friends. The recollection is probably composite, but it is true in essentials."