Verse > Anthologies > Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. > Yale Book of American Verse
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Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. (1838–1915). Yale Book of American Verse.  1912.
 
Richard Henry Stoddard. 1825–1903
 
162. A Woman's Poem
 
YOU say you love me, and you lay 
  Your hand and fortune at my feet: 
I thank you, sir, with all my heart, 
              For love is sweet. 
  
It is but little to you men,         5
  To whom the doors of Life stand wide; 
But much, how much to woman! She 
              Has naught beside. 
  
You make the worlds wherein you move, 
  You rule your tastes, or coarse, or fine;  10
Dine, hunt, or fish, or waste your gold 
              At dice and wine. 
  
Our world (alas, you make that, too!) 
  Is narrower, shut in four blank walls: 
Know you, or care, what light is there?  15
              What shadow falls? 
  
We read the last new novel out, 
  And live in dream-land till it ends: 
We write romantic school-girl notes, 
              That bore our friends.  20
  
We learn to trill Italian songs, 
  And thrum for hours the tortured keys: 
We think it pleases you, and we 
              But live to please. 
  
We feed our birds, we tend our flowers,  25
  (Poor in-door things of sickly bloom,) 
Or play the housewife in our gloves, 
              And dust the room. 
  
But some of us have hearts and minds, 
  So much the worse for us and you;  30
For grant we seek a better life, 
              What can we do? 
  
We cannot build and sail your ships, 
  Or drive your engines; we are weak, 
And ignorant of the tricks of Trade.  35
              To think, and speak, 
  
Or write some earnest, stammering words 
  Alone is ours, and that you hate; 
So forced within ourselves again 
              We sigh and wait.  40
  
Ah, who can tell the bitter hours, 
  The dreary days, that women spend? 
Their thoughts unshared, their lives unknown, 
              Without a friend! 
  
Without a friend? And what is he,  45
  Who, like a shadow, day and night, 
Follows the woman he prefers— 
              Lives in her sight? 
  
Her lover, he: a gallant man, 
  Devoted to her every whim;  50
He vows to die for her, so she 
              Must live for him! 
  
We should be very grateful, sir, 
  That, when you 've nothing else to do, 
You waste your idle hours on us—  55
              So kind of you! 
  
Profuse in studied compliments, 
  Your manners like your clothes are fine, 
Though both at times are somewhat strong 
              Of smoke and wine.  60
  
What can we hope to know of you? 
  Or you of us? We act our parts: 
We love in jest: it is the play 
              Of hands, not hearts! 
  
You grant my bitter words are true  65
  Of others, not of you and me; 
Your love is steady as a star: 
              But we shall see. 
  
You say you love me: have you thought 
  How much those little words contain?  70
Alas, a world of happiness, 
              And worlds of pain! 
  
You know, or should, your nature now, 
  Its needs and passions. Can I be 
What you desire me? Do you find  75
              Your all in me? 
  
You do. But have you thought that I 
  May have my ways and fancies, too? 
You love me well; but have you thought 
              If I love you?  80
  
But think again. You know me not: 
  I, too, may be a butterfly, 
A costly parlor doll on show 
              For you to buy. 
  
You trust me wholly? One word more.  85
  You see me young: they call me fair: 
I think I have a pleasant face, 
              And pretty hair. 
  
But by and by my face will fade, 
  It must with time, it may with care:  90
What say you to a wrinkled wife, 
              With thin, gray hair? 
  
You care not, you: in youth, or age, 
  Your heart is mine, while life endures. 
Is it so? Then, Arthur, here 's my hand,  95
              My heart is yours. 
 
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