by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Sirs, when you pity us, I say
You waste your pity. Let it stay,
Well corked and stored upon your shelves,
Until you need it for yourselves.
We do appreciate God’s thought
In forming you, before He brought
Us into life. His art was crude,
But oh! so virile in its rude,
Large, elemental strength; and then
He learned His trade in making men,
Learned how to mix and mould the clay
And fashion in a finer way.
How fine that skilful way can be
You need but lift your eyes to see;
And we are glad God placed you there
To lift your eyes and find us fair.
Apprentice labour though you were,
He made you great enough to stir
The best and deepest depths of us,
And we are glad He made you thus.
Aye! we are glad of many things;
God strung our hearts with such fine strings
The least breath moves them, and we hear
Music where silence greets your ear.
We suffer so? But women’s souls,
Like violet-powder dropped on coals,
Give forth their best in anguish. Oh
The subtle secrets that we know
Of joy in sorrow, strange delights
Of ecstasy in pain-filled nights,
And mysteries of gain in loss
Known but to Christ upon the cross!
Our tears are pitiful to you?
Look how the heaven-reflecting dew
Dissolves its life in tears. The sand
Meanwhile lies hard upon the strand.
How could your pity find a place
For us, the mothers of the race?
Men may be fathers unaware,
So poor the title is you wear.
But mothers—who that crown adorns
Knows all its mingled blooms and thorns,
And she whose feet that pain hath trod
Hath walked upon the heights with God.
No, offer us not pity’s cup.
There is no looking down or up
Between us; eye looks straight in eye:
Born equals, so we live and die.
- by Ella Wheeler Wilcox