Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century
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Alfred H. Miles, ed.  Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
 
Selected Poems (1900)
I. A Song for Women
By Annie Matheson (1853–1924)
 
WITHIN a dreary narrow room
That looks upon a noisome street,
Half fainting with the stifling heat,
A starving girl works out her doom.
    Yet not the less in God’s sweet air        5
    The little birds sing, free of care,
    And hawthorns blossom everywhere.
 
Swift, ceaseless toil scarce wins her bread:
From early dawn till twilight falls,
Shut in by four dull, ugly walls,        10
The hours crawl round with murderous tread.
    And all the while, in some still place,
    Where intertwining boughs embrace,
    The blackbirds build, time flies apace.
 
With envy of the folk who die,        15
Who may at last their leisure take,
Whose longed-for sleep none roughly wake,
Tired hands the restless needle ply.
    But far and wide in meadows green
    The golden buttercups are seen,        20
    And reddening sorrel nods between.
 
Too pure and proud to soil her soul,
Or stoop to basely-gotten gain,
By days of changeless want and pain
The seamstress earns a prisoner’s dole.        25
    While in the peaceful fields the sheep
    Feed, quiet; and through heaven’s blue deep
    The silent cloud-wings stainless sweep.
 
And if she be alive or dead,
That weary woman scarcely knows;        30
But back and forth her needle goes
In tune with throbbing heart and head.
    Lo, where the leaning alders part,
    White-bosomed swallows, blithe of heart,
    Above still waters skim and dart.        35
 
O God in heaven! shall I, who share
That dying woman’s womanhood,
Taste all the summer’s bounteous good
Unburdened by her weight of care?
    The white moon-daisies star the grass,        40
    The lengthening shadows o’er them pass,
    The meadow tool is smooth as glass.
 
 
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