One decade and a half since first we came,
With hearts aflame,
Into Love's paradise, as man and mate;
And now we separate.
Soon, all too soon,
Waned the white splendor of our honeymoon.
We saw it fading; but we did not know
How bleak the path would be when once its glow
Was wholly gone.
And yet we two were forced to travel on--
Leagues, leagues apart while ever side by side.
Darker and darker grew the loveless weather,
Darker the way,
Until we could not stay
Now that all anger from our hearts has died,
And love has flown far from its ruined nest,
To find sweet shelter in another breast,
Let us talk calmly of our past mistakes,
And of our faults--if only for the sakes
Of those with whom our futures will be cast.
You shall speak first.
A woman would speak last--
Tell me my first grave error as a wife.
Inertia. My young veins were rife
With manhood's ardent blood, and love was fire
Within me. But you met my strong desire
With lips like frozen rose leaves--chaste, so chaste,
That all your splendid beauty seemed but waste
Of Love's materials. Then of that beauty
Which had so pleased my sight,
You seemed to take no care: you felt no duty
To keep yourself an object of delight
For lover-eyes; and appetite
And indolence soon wrought
Their devastating changes. You were not
The woman I had sworn to love and cherish.
If love is starved, what can love do but perish?
Now, will you speak of my first fatal sin
And all that followed, even as I have done?
I must begin
With the young quarter of our honeymoon.
You are but one
Of countless men who take the priceless boon
Of woman's love and kill it at the start,
Not wantonly but blindly. Woman's passion
Is such a subtle thing--woof of her heart,
Web of her spirit; and the body's part
Is to play ever but the lesser rôle
To her white soul.
Seized in brute fashion,
It fades like down on wings of butterflies;
So my love died.
Next, on base Mammon's cross you nailed my pride,
Making me ask for what was mine by right;
Until, in my own sight,
I seemed a helpless slave
To whom the master gave
A grudging dole. Oh, yes, at times gifts showered
Upon your chattel; but I was not dowered
By generous love. Hate never framed a curse
Or placed a cruel ban
That so crushed woman, as the law of man
That makes her pensioner upon his purse.
That necessary stuff called gold is such
A cold, rude thing it needs the nicest touch
Of thought and speech when it approaches Love,
Or it will prove the certain death thereof.
Your words cut deep; 'tis time we separate.
Well, each goes wiser to a newer mate.
By Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Cosmopolitan 58 (December 1914): 10-11.
|Back to Poem Index|