‘Happy Ending’ by Fleur Adcock is about the thin line that exists between love and friendship. Adcock’s poems are concerned with human relationships, places and some mundane activities. Most of her poems are from her own experiences and this might be one too.
About the Poet
Fleur Adcock was born on 10th February 1934 in Papakura to Cyril John Adcock and Irene Robinson Adcock. When she was five she went to England and spent eight years of her initial education in England. She continued her studies in New Zealand. After her graduation she worked as an assistant lecturer and later as an assistant librarian at the University of Otago in Dunedin. She married twice and both were notable literary personalities in New Zealand. She had two children one from each marriage. After divorcing her second husband Barry Crump she moved to England which was a country close to her heart. Apart from writing poems, she edited books on poetry and even translated Medieval Latin and contemporary Romanian poetry.
‘Happy Ending’ is about human relationships that can be tricky. When friends change into lovers cannot be predicted and this poem is about that. The poem is talking about two people. They had not made love but the girl pulled the sheets over her eyes until the man had dressed himself. She did not cover her eyes out of shyness ‘for their bodies – those they had willingly displayed’. It was an attempt to apologise for an ‘untidy end’ to their relationship. They met again later ‘whereupon they giggled’ and recalled what had happened. They held hands as if ‘what they had made was love’ and not as friends. So the two friends in a flurry of excitement almost made love and then did not really like that. They meet again to bring the friendship back into the relationship.
‘Happy Ending’ is a free verse with twelve lines split into two stanzas. There is no rhyme scheme or meter. Some analysts say if we have to give a meter to the poem the closest it gets to is the iambic tetrameter. Lexical repetitions are used to stress on a significant image and in this poem it is ‘they’. Various punctuation marks are used like the colon, semi-colon, hyphen and the usage of these punctuation marks is not very common in poetry.
The poem starts abruptly but the reader can comprehend what had happened before that. The two went all the way up to making love but did not. So they were not shy about showing their bodies but were ashamed they had tried to attempt it. In the poem the feeling of shame is not felt by the girl alone. Both of them feel it and this is reiterated by the repetition of the word ‘they’. The tone of the poem is prose like but the assumptions and speculations created in the readers mind make it poetry. Enjambment is a device where an idea started in one line is carried over to the next. This is seen all through the poem ‘Happy Ending’. As the title suggests the couple end in a happy note that they are friends who will not venture into any more ‘untidy ends’.