Verse > Anthologies > Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. > Yale Book of American Verse
Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. (1838–1915). Yale Book of American Verse.  1912.
Richard Henry Stoddard. 1825–1903
161. Without and Within

THE NIGHT is dark, and the winter winds
Go stabbing about with their icy spears; 
The sharp hail rattles against the panes, 
            And melts on my cheek like tears. 
'T is a terrible night to be out of doors,         5
  But some of us must be, early and late; 
We need n't ask who, for don't we know 
            It has all been settled by Fate? 
Not woman, but man. Give woman her flowers, 
  Her dresses, her jewels, or what she demands:  10
The work of the world must be done by man, 
            Or why has he brawny hands? 
As I feel my way in the dark and cold, 
  I think of the chambers warm and bright, 
The nests where these delicate birds of ours  15
            Are folding their wings to-night. 
Through the luminous windows, above and below, 
  I catch a glimpse of the life they lead: 
Some sew, some sing, others dress for the ball, 
            While others, fair students, read.  20
There 's the little lady who bears my name, 
  She sits at my table now, pouring her tea; 
Does she think of me as I hurry home, 
            Hungry and wet? Not she. 
She helps herself to the sugar and cream  25
  In a thoughtless, dreamy, nonchalant way; 
Her hands are white as the virgin rose 
            That she wore on her wedding day. 
My clumsy fingers are stained with ink, 
  The badge of the Ledger, the mark of Trade;  30
But the money I give her is clean enough, 
            In spite of the way it is made. 
I wear out my life in the counting-room 
  Over day-book and cash-book, Bought and Sold; 
My brain is dizzy with anxious thought,  35
            My skin is as sallow as gold. 
How does she keep the roses of youth 
  Still fresh in her cheek? My roses are flown. 
It lies in a nutshell—why do I ask? 
            A woman's life is her own.  40
She gives me a kiss when we part for the day, 
  Then goes to her music, blithe as a bird; 
She reads it at sight, and the language, too, 
            Though I know never a word. 
She sews a little, makes collars and sleeves,  45
  Or embroiders me slippers (always too small,) 
Nets silken purses (for me to fill,) 
            Often does nothing at all 
But dream in her chamber, holding a flower, 
  Or reading my letters—she 'd better read me.  50
Even now, while I am freezing with cold, 
            She is cosily sipping her tea. 
If I ever reach home I shall laugh aloud 
  At the sight of a roaring fire once more: 
She must wait, I think, till I thaw myself,  55
            For the nightly kiss at the door. 
I 'll have with my dinner a bottle of port, 
  To warm up my blood and soothe my mind; 
Then a little music, for even I 
            Like music—when I have dined.  60
I 'll smoke a pipe in the easy-chair, 
  And feel her behind patting my head; 
Or drawing the little one on my knee, 
            Chat till the hour for bed. 

Will he never come? I have watched for him
  Till the misty panes are roughened with sleet; 
I can see no more: shall I never hear 
            The welcome sound of his feet? 
I think of him in the lonesome night, 
  Tramping along with a weary tread,  70
And wish he were here by the cheery fire, 
            Or I were there in his stead. 
I sit by the grate, and hark for his step, 
  And stare in the fire with a troubled mind; 
The glow of the coals is bright in my face,  75
            But my shadow is dark behind. 
I think of woman, and think of man, 
  The tie that binds and the wrongs that part, 
And long to utter in burning words 
            What I feel to-night in my heart.  80
No weak complaint of the man I love, 
  No praise of myself, or my sisterhood; 
But—something that women understand— 
            By men never understood. 
Their natures jar in a thousand things;  85
  Little matter, alas, who is right or wrong, 
She goes to the wall. "She is weak," they say— 
            It is that which makes them strong. 
Wherein am I weaker than Arthur, pray? 
  He has, as he should, a sturdier frame,  90
And he labors early and late for me, 
            But I—I could do the same. 
My hands are willing, my brain is clear, 
  The world is wide, and the workers few; 
But the work of the world belongs to man,  95
            There is nothing for woman to do! 
Yes, she has the holy duties of home, 
  A husband to love, and children to bear, 
The softer virtues, the social arts,— 
            In short, a life without care! 100
So our masters say. But what do they know 
  Of our lives and feelings when they are away? 
Our household duties, our petty tasks, 
            The nothings that waste the day? 
Nay, what do they care? 'T is enough for them 105
  That their homes are pleasant; they seek their ease: 
One takes a wife to flatter his pride, 
            Another to keep his keys. 
They say they love us; perhaps they do, 
  In a masculine way, as they love their wine: 110
But the soul of woman needs something more, 
            Or it suffers at times like mine. 
Not that Arthur is ever unkind 
  In word or deed, for he loves me well; 
But I fear he thinks me as weak as the rest— 115
            (And I may be, who can tell?) 
I should die if he changed, or loved me less, 
  For I live at best but a restless life; 
Yet he may, for they say the kindest men 
            Grow tired of a sickly wife. 120
O, love me, Arthur, my lord, my life, 
  If not for my love, and my womanly fears, 
At least for your child. But I hear his step— 
            He must not find me in tears. 

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