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Poems about Women

    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

She must be honest, both in thought and deed,
Of generous impulse, and above all greed;
Not seeking praise, or place, or power, or pelf,
But life's best blessings for her higher self,
Which means the best for all.
She must have faith,
To make good friends of Trouble, Pain, and Death,
And understand their message.
She should be
As redolent with tender sympathy
As is a rose with fragrance.
Should be her mantle, even though her dress
May be of Sorrow's weaving.
On her face
A loyal nature leaves its seal of grace,
And chastity is in her atmosphere.
Not that chill chastity which seems austere
(Like untrod snow-peaks, lovely to behold
Till once attained - then barren, loveless, cold);
But the white flame that feeds upon the soul
And lights the pathway to a peaceful goal.
A sense of humour, and a touch of mirth,
To brighten up the shadowy spots of earth;
And pride that passes evil - choosing good.
All these unite in perfect womanhood.


    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Sirs, when you pity us, I say
You waste your pity. Let it stay,
Well corked and stored upon your shelves,
Until you need it for yourselves.

We do appreciate God's thought
In forming you, before He brought
Us into life. His art was crude,
But oh! so virile in its rude,

Large, elemental strength; and then
He learned His trade in making men,
Learned how to mix and mould the clay
And fashion in a finer way.

How fine that skilful way can be
You need but lift your eyes to see;
And we are glad God placed you there
To lift your eyes and find us fair.

Apprentice labour though you were,
He made you great enough to stir
The best and deepest depths of us,
And we are glad He made you thus.

Aye! we are glad of many things;
God strung our hearts with such fine strings
The least breath moves them, and we hear
Music where silence greets your ear.

We suffer so? But women's souls,
Like violet-powder dropped on coals,
Give forth their best in anguish. Oh
The subtle secrets that we know

Of joy in sorrow, strange delights
Of ecstasy in pain-filled nights,
And mysteries of gain in loss
Known but to Christ upon the cross!

Our tears are pitiful to you?
Look how the heaven-reflecting dew
Dissolves its life in tears. The sand
Meanwhile lies hard upon the strand.

How could your pity find a place
For us, the mothers of the race?
Men may be fathers unaware,
So poor the title is you wear.

But mothers - who that crown adorns
Knows all its mingled blooms and thorns,
And she whose feet that pain hath trod
Hath walked upon the heights with God.

No, offer us not pity's cup.
There is no looking down or up
Between us; eye looks straight in eye:
Born equals, so we live and die.


A Women's Answer
    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

You call me an angel of love and of light,
A being of goodness and heavenly fire,
Sent out from God's kingdom to guide you aright,
In paths where your spirit may mount and aspire,
You say that I glow like a star on its course,
Like a ray from the altar, a spark from the source.

Now list to my answer - let all the world hear it,
I speak unafraid what I know to be true -
A pure, faithful love is the creative spirit
Which make women angels! I live but in you.
We are bound soul to soul by life's holiest laws;
If I am an angel - why, you are the cause.

As my ship skims the sea, I look up from the deck.
Fair, firm at the wheel shines Love's beautiful form.
And shall I curse the bark that last night went to wreck
By the pilot abandoned to darkness and storm?
My craft is no stauncher, she too had been lost
Had the wheelman deserted, or slept at his post.

I laid down the wealth of my soul at your feet
(Some woman does this for some man every day).
No desperate creature who walks in the street
Has a wickeder heart than I might have, I say,
Had you wantonly misused the treasures you won -
As so many men with heart-riches have done.

This fire from God's altar, this holy love-flame,
That burns like sweet incense forever for you,
Might now be a wild conflagration of shame,
Had you tortured my heart, or been base or untrue.
For angels and devils are cast in one mould,
Till love guides them upward or downward, I hold.

I tell you the women who make fervent wives
And sweet tender mothers, had Fate been less fair,
Are the women who might have abandoned their lives
To the madness that springs from and ends in despair.
As the fire on the hearth which sheds brightness around,
Neglected, may level the walls to the ground.

The world makes grave errors in judging these things.
Great good and great evil are born in one breast:
Love horns us and hoofs us, or gives us our wings,
And the best could be worst, as the worst could be best.
You must thank your own worth for what I grew to be,
For the demon lurked under the angel in me.


    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

O well have we done the old tasks! in the old, old ways of earth.
We have kept the house in order, we have given the children birth;
And our sons went out with their fathers, and left us alone at the hearth!

We have cooked the meats for their table; we have woven their cloth at the loom;
We have pulled the weeds from their gardens, and kept the flowers in bloom;
And then we have sat and waited, alone in a silent room.

We have borne all the pains of travail in giving life to the race;
We have toiled and saved, for the masters, and helped them to power and place;
And when we asked for a pittance, they gave it with grudging grace.

On the bold, bright face of the dollar all the evils of earth are shown.
We are weary of love that is barter, and of virtue that pines alone;
We are out in the world with the masters: we are finding and claiming our own!


The Graduates
    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I saw them beautiful, in fair array upon Commencement Day;
Lissome and lovely, radiant and sweet
As cultured roses, brought to their estate
By careful training. Finished and complete
(As teachers calculate).

They passed in maiden grace along the aisle,
Leaving the chaste white sunlight of a smile
Upon the gazing throng.
Musing I thought upon their place as mothers of the race.

Oh there are many actors who can play
Greatly, great parts; but rare indeed the soul
Who can be great when cast for some small role;
Yet that is what the world most needs; big hearts
That will shine forth and glorify poor parts
In this strange drama, Life! Do they,
Who in full dress-rehearsal pass to-day
Before admiring eyes, hold in their store
Those fine high principles which keep old Earth
From being only earth; and make men more
Than just mere men? How will they prove their worth
Of years of study? Will they walk abroad
Decked with the plumage of dead bards of God,
The glorious birds? And shall the lamb unborn
Be slain on altars of their vanity?
To some frail sister who has missed the way
Will they give Christ's compassion, or man's scorn;
And will clean manhood, linked with honest love,
The victor prove,
When riches, gained by greed, dispute the claim?
Will they guard well a husband's home and name.
Or lean down from their altitudes to hear
The voice of flattery speak in the ear
Those lying platitudes which men repeat
To listening Self-Conceit?
Musing I thought upon their place as mothers of the race,
As beautiful they passed in maiden grace.


The Silent Tragedy
    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The deepest tragedies of life are not
Put into books, or acted on the stage.
Nay, they are lived in silence, by tense hearts
In homes, among dull unperceiving kin,
And thoughtless friends, who make a whip of words
Wherewith to lash these hearts, and call it wit.

There is a tragedy lived everywhere
In Christian lands, by an increasing horde
Of women martyrs to our social laws.
Women whose hearts cry out for motherhood;
Women whose bosoms ache for little heads;
Women God meant for mothers, but whose lives
Have been restrained, restricted, and denied
Their natural channels, till at last they stand
Unmated and alone, by that sad sea
Whose slow receding tide returns no more.
Men meet great sorrows; but no man can grasp
The depth, and height, of such a grief as this.

The call of Fatherhood is from man's brain.
Man cannot know the answer to that call
Save as a woman tells him. But to her
The call of Motherhood is from the soul,
The brain, the body. She is like a plant
Which buds and blossoms only to bear fruit.
Man is the pollen, carried by the wind
Of accident, or impulse, or desire;
And then his role of fatherhood is played.
Her threefold knowledge of maternity,
Through three times three great months, is hers alone.

Man as an egotist is wounded when
He is not father. Woman when denied
The all-embracing role of motherhood
Rebels with her whole being. Oftentimes
Rebellion finds its only utterance
In shattered nerves, and lack of self-control;
Which gives the merry world its chance to cry
'Old maids are queer.'
In far off Eastern lands

They think of God as Mother to the race;
Father and Mother of the Universe.
And mayhap this is why they make their girls
Wives prematurely, mothers over young,
Hoping to please their Mother God this way.
Since everywhere in Nature sex is shown
For procreative uses, they contend
Sterility is sinful. (Save when one
Chooses a life of Saintship here on earth,
And so conserves all forces to that end.)

Here in the West, our God is Masculine;
And while we say He bade a Virgin bring
His Son to birth, we think of Him as One
Placing false values on forced continence -
Preparing heavens for those who live that life -
And hells for those who stray by thought or act
From the unnatural path our laws have made.

Mother of Christ, thou being woman, thou
Knowing all depths within the woman heart,
All joy, all pain, oh send the world more light.
Enlarge our sympathies; and let our minds
Turn from achievements of material things
To contemplation of Eternal truths.
Space throbs with egos, waiting for rebirth;
And mother-hearted women fill the earth.
Mother of Christ, show us the way to thin
The ranks of childless women, without sin.


The Trinity
    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Much may be done with the world we are in,
Much with the race to better it;
We can unfetter it,
Free it from chains of the old traditions;
Broaden its viewpoint of virtue and sin;
Change its conditions
Of labour and wealth;
And open new roadways to knowledge and health.
Yet some things ever must stay as they are
While the sea has its tide and the sky has its star.

A man and a woman with love between,
Loyal and tender and true and clean,
Nothing better has been or can be
Than just those three.

Woman may alter the first great plan.
Daughters and sisters and mothers
May stalk with their brothers
Forth from their homes into noisy places
Fit (and fit only) for masculine man.
Marring their graces
With conflict and strife
To widen the outlook of all human life.
Yet some things ever must stay as they are
While the sea has its tide and the sky has its star.

A man and a woman with love that strengthens
And gathers new force as its earth way lengthens;
Nothing better by God is given
This side of heaven.

Science may show us a wonderful vast
Secret of life and of breeding it;
Man by the heeding it
Out of earth's chaos may bring a new order.
Off with old systems, old laws may be cast.
What now seems the border
Of licence in creeds,
May then be the centre of thoughts and of deeds.
Yet some things ever must stay as they are
While the sea has its tide and the sky has its star.

A man and a woman and love undefiled
And the look of the two in the face of a child, -
Oh, the joys of this world have their changing ways,
But this joy stays.
Nothing better on earth can be
Than just those three.


The Unwed Mother to the Wife
    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I had been almost happy for an hour,
Lost to the world that knew me in the park
Among strange faces; while my little girl
Leaped with the squirrels, chirruped with the birds
And with the sunlight glowed. She was so dear,
So beautiful, so sweet; and for the time
The rose of love, shorn of its thorn of shame,
Bloomed in my heart. Then suddenly you passed.
I sat alone upon the public bench;
You, with your lawful husband, rode in state;
And when your eyes fell on me and my child,
They were not eyes, but daggers, poison tipped.

God! how good women slaughter with a look!
And, like cold steel, your glance cut through my heart,
Struck every petal from the rose of love
And left the ragged stalk alive with thorns.

My little one came running to my side
And called me Mother. It was like a blow
Between the eyes; and made me sick with pain.
And then it seemed as if each bird and breeze
Took up the word, and changed its syllables
From Mother into Magdalene; and cried
My shame to all the world.

It was your eyes
Which did all this. But listen now to me
(Not you alone, but all the barren wives
Who, like you, flaunt their virtue in the face
Of fallen women): I do chance to know
The crimes you think are hidden from all men
(Save one who took your gold and sold his skill
And jeopardized his name for your base ends).

I know how you have sunk your soul in sense
Like any wanton; and refused to bear
The harvest of your pleasure-planted seed;
I know how you have crushed the tender bud
Which held a soul; how you have blighted it;
And made the holy miracle of birth
A wicked travesty of God's design;
Yea, many buds, which might be blossoms now
And beautify your selfish, arid life,
Have been destroyed, because you chose to keep
The aimless freedom, and the purposeless,
Self-seeking liberty of childless wives.

I was an untaught girl. By nature led,
By love and passion blinded, I became
An unwed mother. You, an honoured wife,
Refuse the crown of motherhood, defy
The laws of nature, and fling baby souls
Back in the face of God. And yet you dare
Call me a sinner, and yourself a saint;
And all the world smiles on you, and its doors
Swing wide at your approach.
I stand outside.

Surely there must be higher courts than earth,
Where you and I will some day meet and be
Weighed by a larger justice.


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