George Essex Evans

(18 June 1863 – 10 November 1909 / London, England)

A Commonplace Song


Ebbs and flows the restless river
In the city street
Where the great nerve centres quiver,
Where the pulses beat.
Where the human waves are driving
Drifts a woman’s face,
White and worn by ceaseless striving
With the commonplace.
Want has written strange inscriptions
On the brow and cheek;
Pain could weave some weird descriptions
If the lips would speak;
Toil has touched the lines of beauty
And, the curves of grace.
Comeliness is good, but duty
Rules the commonplace.

Thick-soled shoes and shabby bonnet,
Dingy cotton gloves,
Old turned dress with darns upon it
(Not what woman loves),
Gaunt umbrella, green with weather—
One must self efface
To keep home and bairns together
In the commonplace.

Late and early, never shirking
Tub and scrub and broom,
Late at night with needle working
In the dwelling-room;
Yet when week’s receipts are thinner
Grocers’ bills to face—
Tenpence means three children’s dinner
In the commonplace!

Poets sing their wild Iambics—
Love and War and Gods—
Let us sing of humble women
Fighting fearful odds,
Not where steel and bullets rattle
And the squadrons race,
But the grim unending battle
With the commonplace.

Now they shriek the creeds are dying!
Faith is of the air!
Wailfully their lyres are sighing
Sonnets of despair!
All the scheme of things evolving
Somehow out of Space!
Darken then, instead of solving,
This grim commonplace!

Rogues may win success and glory,
Beauty pride of fame,
Statesmen make a nation’s story,
Poets deathless name.
But the patient woman Toiler
What is hers to win?
On the one hand—Want, the Spoiler,
On the other—Sin!

Ye who swear and strut and bluster,
So-called manly pride,
When you answer at the muster
On the other side,
Will the courage you have vaunted
Stand you in such grace
As weak hands that fought undaunted
With the commonplace?

Noblest worth works ever humbly,
Oftest is unseen,
Half the world is toiling dumbly
In the gray routine.
Sing, O Poet of the Morrow!
Cheer the weary face
Where brave women moil and sorrow
In the commonplace!

Submitted: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

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