None may know. Through blood-stained cycles
We have thus far made our way:
Of the unknown depths beneath us
We are nothing but the spray.
With gentle manners, winsome face,
And forehead fit to wear a crown,
How brilliant might have been her place,
Had she not mated with a clown,—
A Caliban of modern date,
Ill-dressed, ill-shapen, ill at ease,
With halting speech and awkward gait,
And manners certain to displease!
What secret motive could have led
This charming girl her life to stain
By condescending thus to wed
A husband whom she must disdain?
Far worthier men had vainly sought
To win her for herself alone;
What potent spell could Love have wrought
To draw her to a tactless drone?
A palace she might well have graced.
And led its functions like a queen;
Instead, her life has run to waste,
The wraith of what it might have been.
For boorishness hath brought its blight;
Her rare accomplishments are marred,
And every path, with promise bright,
By stupid tyranny is barred.
Yet still she bravely moves through life,
Ignoring her pathetic fall;—
A loveless, broken-hearted wife;
Alas, the pity of it all!
Dreary fog and drizzling sleet,
And a lamp-lit track of slime;
Phantoms dim in the misty street,
Vanishing, streaked with grime;
Overhead in a spurious night,
Formed by the vapors dun,
Wraith-like globes of haloed light,
Mocking the hidden sun;—
Children, shod in sodden shoes,
(That is a sight that hurts;)
Women, furrowing filthy ooze
In thin, bedraggled skirts;
Horses, lashed with cruel zest,
Ploughing the fumid fog;
Hark! ... a car, with no arrest,
Killing a howling dog;—
Clanging trams, with haggard men
Forcing their way within,—
Some compressed in a steaming-pen,
Others soaked to the skin;
Smoke and soot in the murky sky,
Death in the tainted air,
Each aware, were he to die,
None in the crowd would care;—
Here and there a carriage fine,
Cleaving the reeking mass;
Scowling faces, ranged in line,
Watching the rich man pass;
Envy’s gleam in many an eye,
Hate in many a threat;
Why should he be warm and dry,
And they be cold and wet?
Pictures these of the “Passing Show,”
Scenes in a world gone wrong,
Wretched weaklings, born to woe,
Crushed by the brutal strong!
Breaking hearts that crave release,
Slaves to a ceaseless strife! ...
I will go back to sylvan peace
And a sight of the Source of Life.
I take their hands with placid smile
And words which social rules enforce,
Though sadly conscious all the while
Of something very like remorse,
Because beneath the mask I wear
I really wish they were not there.