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Richard Le Gallienne

(1866-1947 / England)

A Ballad of Woman


She bore us in her dreaming womb,
And laughed into the face of Death;
She laughed, in her strange agony,-
To give her little baby breath.

Then, by some holy mystery,
She fed us from her sacred breast,
Soothed us with little birdlike words-
To rest-to rest-to rest-to rest;

Yea, softly fed us with her life-
Her bosom like the world in May:
Can it be true that men, thus fed,
Feed women-as I hear them say?

Long ere we grew to girl and boy,
She sewed the little things we wore,
And smiled unto herself for joy-
Mysterious Portress of the Door.

Shall she who bore the son of God,
And made the rose of Sappho's song,
She who saved France, and beat the drum
Of freedom, brook this vulgar wrong?

I wonder if such men as these
Had once a sister with blue eyes,
Kind as the soothing hand of God,
And as the quiet heaven wise.

I wonder if they ever saw
A soldier lying on a bed
On some lone battle-field, and watched
Some holy woman bind his head.

I wonder if they ever walked,
Lost in a black and weary land,
And suddenly a flower came
And took them softly by the hand.

I wonder if they ever heard
The silver scream, in some grey morn,
High in a lit and listening tower,
Because a man-child then was born.

I wonder if they ever saw
A woman's hair, or in her eye
Read the eternal mystery-
Or ever saw a woman die.

I wonder, when all friends had gone,-
The gay companions, the brave men-
If in some fragile girl they found
Their only stay and comrade then.

She who thus went through flaming hell
To make us, put into our clay
All that there is of heaven, shall she-
Mother and sister, wife and fay,-

Have no part in the world she made-
Serf of the rainbow, vassal flower-
Save knitting in the afternoon,
And rocking cradles, hour by hour!

Submitted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

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