I was so proud of you last night, dear girl,
While man with man was striving for your smile.
You never lost your head, nor once dropped down
From your high place
As queen in that gay whirl.
(It takes more poise to wear a little crown
With modesty and grace
Than to adorn the lordlier thrones of earth.)
You seem so free from artifice and wile:
And in your eyes I read
Encouragement to my unspoken thought.
My heart is eloquent with words to plead
Its cause of passion; but my questioning mind,
Knowing how love is blind,
Dwells on the pros and cons, and God knows what.
My heart cries with each beat,
'She is so beautiful, so pure, so sweet,
So more than dear.'
And then I hear
The voice of Reason, asking: 'Would she meet
Life's common duties with good common sense?
Could she bear quiet evening at your hearth,
And not be sighing for gay scenes of mirth?
If, some great day, love's mighty recompense
For chastity surrendered came to her,
If she felt stir
Beneath her heart a little pulse of life,
Would she rejoice with holy pride and wonder,
And find new glory in the name of wife?
Or would she plot with sin, and seek to plunder
Love's sanctuary, and cast away its treasure,
That she might keep her freedom and her pleasure?
Could she be loyal mate and mother dutiful?
Or is she only some bright hothouse bloom,
Seedless and beautiful,
Meant just for decoration, and for show?'
Alone here in my room,
I hear this voice of Reason. My poor heart
Has ever but one answer to impart,
'I love her so.'
After the ball last night, when I came home
I stood before my mirror, and took note
Of all that men call beautiful. Delight,
Keen, sweet delight, possessed me, when I saw
My own reflection smiling on me there,
Because your eyes, through all the swirling hours,
And in your slow good-night, had made a fact
Of what before I fancied might be so;
Yet knowing how men lie, by look and act,
I still had doubted. But I doubt no more,
I know you love me, love me. And I feel
Your satisfaction in my comeliness.
Beauty and youth, good health and willing mind,
A spotless reputation, and a heart
Longing for mating and for motherhood,
And lips unsullied by another's kiss--
These are the riches I can bring to you.
But as I sit here, thinking of it all
In the clear light of morning, sudden fear
Has seized upon me. What has been your past?
From out the jungle of old reckless years,
May serpents crawl across our path some day
And pierce us with their fangs? Oh, I am not
A prude or bigot; and I have not lived
A score and three full years in ignorance
Of human nature. Much I can condone;
For well I know our kinship to the earth
And all created things. Why, even I
Have felt the burden of virginity,
When flowers and birds and golden butterflies
In early spring were mating; and I know
How loud that call of sex must sound to man
Above the feeble protest of the world.
But I can hear from depths within my soul
The voices of my unborn children cry
For rightful heritage. (May God attune
The souls of men, that they may hear and heed
That plaintive voice above the call of sex;
And may the world's weak protest swell into
A thunderous diapason--a demand
For cleaner fatherhood.)
Oh, love, come near;
Look in my eyes, and say I need not fear.
Poems of Problems. By Ella Wheeler Wilcox
London : Gay and Hancock, 1914.
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