To the Young Wife

Original Text: 
In This Our World (Boston: Small, Maynard, 1899): 129-31.
1Are you content, you pretty three-years' wife?
2  Are you content and satisfied to live
3  On what your loving husband loves to give,
4       And give to him your life?
5Are you content with work, -- to toil alone,
6  To clean things dirty and to soil things clean;
7  To be a kitchen-maid, be called a queen, --
8       Queen of a cook-stove throne?
9Are you content to reign in that small space .--
10  A wooden palace and a yard-fenced land .--
11  With other queens abundant on each hand,
12       Each fastened in her place?
13Are you content to rear your children so?
14  Untaught yourself, untrained, perplexed, distressed,
15  Are you so sure your way is always best?
16       That you can always know?
17Have you forgotten how you used to long
18  In days of ardent girlhood, to be great,
19  To help the groaning world, to serve the state,
20       To be so wise -- so strong?
21And are you quite convinced this is the way,
22  The only way a woman's duty lies .--
23  Knowing all women so have shut their eyes?
24       Seeing the world to-day?
25Having no dream of life in fuller store?
26  Of growing to be more than that you are?
27  Doing the things you know do better far,
28       Yet doing others .- more?
29Losing no love, but finding as you grew
30  That as you entered upon nobler life
31  You so became a richer, sweeter wife,
32       A wiser mother too?
33What holds you? Ah, my dear, it is your throne,
34  Your paltry queenship in that narrow place,
35  Your antique labours, your restricted space,
36       Your working all alone!
37Be not deceived! 'Tis not your wifely bond
38  That holds you, nor the mother's royal power,
39  But selfish, slavish service hour by hour -.-
40       A life with no beyond!
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2004
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