The Woman

Harriet Monroe 1860 (Chicago) – 1936 (Arequipa)

Go sleep, my sweetie—rest—rest!
Oh soft little hand on mother's breast!
Oh soft little lips—the din's mos' gone-
Over and done, my dearie one!

What do I think, my brother? Look at me!
You make me laugh, sitting there solemneyed,
Full of opinions, theories!—asking me—
Look—with my baby at my breast—to tell you,
Blessed big uncle!—what I think—heaven help me!—
Of this and that. How could you think, I wonder,
If baby lips were tugging at your flesh,
Draining your life to flower the world?
Dear brother,
It's beautiful, that masculine pride of yours,
That runs the universe—oh yes, I know,
And longs to run it well. You travel, observe,
Experiment, make laws and governments,
Build strange machines and masterfully summon
The elemental powers to do your work—
Why?—so my girl here, darling hope of the race,
May pillow her round head in a softer bed,
And dance more lightly by and by—God bless her—.
Into her lover's arms.

Ah precious!—hungry still, my bird?
Coo, coo—yes, darling, mother heard.
Coo, coo—and is it true?—
Ever so true?

What do I think?
If I were arrogant, extravagant—
As men have never been!—what would I think,
Now in this hour of pride, with all the future
Safe in my arms? Almost I might dare whisper
That it's a woman's world—do they not say it
In the great book of science, the new song,
Epic of truth? Let me but hear the word
In reverence—almost a woman's world!
We hold the race within us, we enfold
Life in our arms, we do great nature's work;
So nature hoards and wastes for us, they say,
Contrives our essence from her richer store,
And makes the haughty male out of the rest—
You among others, with your politics,
Your grand reforms, your dreams ! Hush ! do you dare
Follow from seedling sea-drift up to man
Life's long procession, noting everywhere
How the encompassing mother mothers us,
And leaves your kind to shiver and drone and die?
Or else, in pity, the less vital tasks
She gives you—bids you serve us, fight for us,
Even sing for us; and cunningly contrive
Is heavy with strange erections, and the air
Is noisy with ideas.

Oh yes, I know—
You've got the upper hand, you run the world,
Think so at least; at many an icy hearth
You do your will with us; and we—poor chattels—
Meekly we take our fortune at your hands,
With never a royal word to prove us women,
Not slaves. Why do we yield, abase ourselves,
If we are nature's favorites, till even
The mighty mother who made us in her image
Rejects us, winnows her worthless chaff away:
Poor drudges, eating the heart of the race for bread;
Poor puppets, wilfully idle, wilfully barren,
Teasers of men—riff-raff and refuse all!

Why should we suffer this in a woman's world?
Good God, I wonder sometimes, hang my head
For our surrender. Ah, we clasp too close

The burden on our hearts, nor look abroad
Through our long windy night of passion and pain.
And still at dawn we rub our sleepy eyes,
Here at the hearth with morning in our arms—
Pink-dimpled baby morning, look at her!—
Waiting for you, our powerful delegates,
To chase the night away.

But is it strange?
Think but a moment, ask yourself, my brother—
You who tell me to think—what is our life,
Our woman's life? Out of delicious youth,
Murmurous, odorous, vague, full of delights
Half won, half apprehended, suddenly,
Like a still stream seized by the ruthless ocean,
We are drawn to the deeps. Love, marriage, motherhood—
We are drowned in the physical, sensual; washed over
With tide on tide of feeling warm and red—
The heart's-blood of the world. Little pitiless
Grip us within, throttle us, hold us down
Through the long moons of feebleness and pain.
Little souls adrift, gathering out of the void;
Bring us their nebulous dreams, vague, incoherent,
Far lightning-flashes caught from flaming stars.
No longer free, no more our own, or yours,
No longer of this world, but of all worlds,
We are borne by the vast tide, the tide of storms,
Life irresistible, universal, deep,
Out of that no-man's-land, that isle of pain,
Where birth and death fight in the dark together
For the new soul, the new little infant world, ,
Bearer of tidings, saviour of the race—
The child.

Then, wonder of wonders, comes
The change. All glowing, from his great white throne
God stoops to us; we see the splendor, we hear
The thronging harps, we feel here in our arms
His presence forming softly, clasping close
Into a littl
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Harriet Monroe

Harriet Monroe was an American editor, scholar, literary critic, poet and patron of the arts. more…

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"The Woman" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 14 Aug. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/16941/the-woman>.

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