A Married Coquette

Sit still, I say, and dispense with heroics!
   I hurt your wrists? Well, you have hurt me.
It is time you found out that men are not stoics,
   Nor toys to be used as your mood may be.
I will not let go of your hands, nor leave you
   Until I have spoken. No man, you say,
Dared ever so treat you before? I believe you,
   For you have dealt only with boys till to-day.

You women lay stress on your fine perception,
   Your intuitions are prated about;
You claim an occult sort of conception
   Of matters which men must reason out.
So then, of course, when you asked me kindly
   To Call again soon, you read my heart,
I cannot believe you were acting blindly
   You saw my passion for you from the start.

You are one of those women who charm without trying;
   The clay you are made of is magnet ore,
And I am the steel; yet, there's no denying
   You led me to loving you more and more.
You are fanning a flame that may burn too brightly,
   Oft easily kindled, but hard to put out;
I am not a man to be played with lightly,
   To come at a gesture and go at a pout.

A brute, you call me, a creature inhuman;
   You say I insult you, and bid me go.
And you? Ah, you are a saintly woman,
   With thoughts as pure as the drifted snow.
Pah! You are but one of a thousand beauties
   Who think they are living exemplary lives.
They break no commandments, and do all their duties
   As Christian women and spotless wives.

Yet with drooping of lids, and lifting of faces,
   And baring of shoulders, and well-timed sighs,
And the devil knows what other subtle graces,
   You are mental wantons, who sin with the eyes.
You lure love to wake, yet bid passion keep under,
   You tempt us to fall, but bid reason control;
And then you are full of an outraged wonder
   When we get to wanting you, body and soul.

But when I play at love at a lady's commanding,
   I always am certain to win one game;
So there--there--there! I will leave my branding
   On the lips that are free now to cry "Shame, shame!"
You hate me? Quite likely! It does not surprise me.
   Brute force? I confess it; but, still you were kissed;
And one thing is certain--you cannot despise me
   For having been played with, controlled, and dismissed.

And the next time you see that a man is attracted
   By the beauty and graces that are not for him,
Don't lead him on to be half-distracted
   Keep out of deep waters, although you can swim.
For when he is caught in the whirlpool of passion,
   Where many bold swimmers are seen to drown,
A man will reach out and, in desperate fashion,
   Will drag whoever is nearest him down.

In the game of hearts, though a woman be winner,
   The odds are ever against her, you know;
The world is ready to call her a sinner,
   And man is ready to make her so.
Shame is likely, and sorrow is certain,
   And the man has the best of it, end as it may.
So now, my lady, we'll drop the curtain,
   And put out the lights. We are through with our play.

                                       ELLA WHEELER WILCOX.

The Evening Bulletin [Philadelphia] 16 Mar. 1901: 7.

Courtesy of John M. Freiermuth.

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