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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

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