Verse > Anthologies > Hamilton Fish Armstrong, ed. > The Book of New York Verse
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Hamilton Fish Armstrong, ed.  The Book of New York Verse.  1917.
 
Nothing to Wear (abridged)
By William Allen Butler
 
MISS Flora M’Flimsey, of Madison Square,
  Has made three separate journeys to Paris,
And her father assures me, each time she was there,
  That she and her friend Mrs. Harris
(Not the lady whose name is so famous in history,        5
But plain Mrs. H., without romance or mystery)
Spent six consecutive weeks, without stopping,
In one continuous round of shopping—
Shopping alone, and shopping together,
At all hours of the day, and in all sorts of weather,        10
For all manner of things that a woman can put
On the crown of her head, or the sole of her foot,
Or wrap round her shoulders, or fit round her waist,
Or that can be sewed on, or pinned on, or laced,
Or tied on with a string, or stitched on with a bow,        15
In front or behind, above or below;
For bonnets, mantillas, capes, collars, and shawls;
Dresses for breakfasts, and dinners, and balls;
Dresses to sit in, to stand in, to walk in;
Dresses to dance in, and flirt in, and talk in;        20
Dresses in which to do nothing at all;
Dresses for Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall—
All of them different in colour and shape,
Silk, muslin, and lace, velvet, satin, and crape,
Brocade and broadcloth, and other material,        25
Quite as expensive and much more ethereal;
In short, for all things that could ever be thought of,
Or milliner, modiste, or tradesman be bought of,
  From ten-thousand-franc robes to twenty-sous frills;
In all quarters of Paris, and to every store,        30
While M’Flimsey in vain stormed, scolded, and swore,
  They footed the streets, and he footed the bills!
And yet, though scarce three months have passed since the day
This merchandise went, on twelve carts, up Broadway,
This same Miss M’Flimsey, of Madison Square,        35
The last time we met was in utter despair,
Because she had nothing whatever to wear!
NOTHING TO WEAR! Now, as this is a true ditty,
  I do not assert—this, you know, is between us—
That she’s in a state of absolute nudity,        40
  Like Powers’ Greek Slave or the Medici Venus;
But I do mean to say, I have heard her declare,
  When at the same moment she had on a dress
  Which cost five hundred dollars, and not a cent less,
  And jewelry worth ten times more, I should guess,        45
That she had not a thing in the wide world to wear!
 
Researches in some of the “Upper Ten” districts
Reveal the most painful and startling statistics,
Of which let me mention only a few:
In one single house on the Fifth Avenue        50
Three young ladies were found, all below twenty-two,
Who have been three whole weeks without anything new
In the way of flounced silks, and thus left in the lurch
Are unable to go to ball, concert, or church.
In another large mansion, near the same place,        55
Was found a deplorable, heart-rending case
Of entire destitution of Brussels point-lace.
In a neighbouring block there was found, in three calls,
Total want, long continued, of camel’s-hair shawls;
And a suffering family, whose case exhibits        60
The most pressing need of real ermine tippets;
One deserving lady almost unable
To survive for the want of a new Russian sable;
Still another, whose tortures have been most terrific
Ever since the sad loss of the steamer Pacific,        65
In which were engulfed, not friend or relation
(For whose fate she perhaps might have found consolation,
Or borne it, at least, with serene resignation),
But the choicest assortment of French sleeves and collars
Ever sent out from Paris, worth thousands of dollars,        70
And all as to style most recherché and rare,
The want of which leaves her with nothing to wear,
And renders her life so drear and dyspeptic
That she’s quite a recluse, and almost a sceptic,
For she touchingly says that this sort of grief        75
Cannot find in Religion the slightest relief,
And Philosophy has not a maxim to spare
For the victims of such overwhelming despair.
Won’t some kind philanthropist, seeing that aid is
So needed at once by these indigent ladies,        80
Take charge of the matter? Or won’t Peter Cooper
The corner-stone lay of some new splendid super-
Structure, like that which to-day links his name
In the Union unending of Honor and Fame,
And found a new charity just for the care        85
Of these unhappy women with nothing to wear?
 
 
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