Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice

Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
The Wolf at the Door

By Charlotte Perkins Gilman

(America’s most brilliant woman poet and critic; born 1860)
THERE’S a haunting horror near us
  That nothing drives away;
Fierce lamping eyes at nightfall,
  A crouching shade by day;
There’s a whining at the threshold,        5
  There’s a scratching at the floor.
To work! To work! In Heaven’s name!
  The wolf is at the door!
The day was long, the night was short,
  The bed was hard and cold;        10
Still weary are the little ones,
  Still weary are the old.
We are weary in our cradles
  From our mother’s toil untold;
We are born to hoarded weariness        15
  As some to hoarded gold.
We will not rise! We will not work!
  Nothing the day can give
Is half so sweet as an hour of sleep;
  Better to sleep than live!        20
What power can stir these heavy limbs?
  What hope these dull hearts swell?
What fear more cold, what pain more sharp
  Than the life we know so well?…
The slow, relentless, padding step        25
  That never goes astray—
The rustle in the underbrush—
  The shadow in the way—
The straining flight—the long pursuit—
  The steady gain behind—        30
Death-wearied man and tireless brute,
  And the struggle wild and blind!
There’s a hot breath at the keyhole
  And a tearing as of teeth!
Well do I know the bloodshot eyes        35
  And the dripping jaws beneath!
There’s a whining at the threshold—
  There’s a scratching at the floor—
To work! To work! In Heaven’s name!
  The wolf is at the door!        40

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