A Parlourmaid - Poem by Lesbia Harford
'I want a parlourmaid.'
'Well, let me see
If you were God, what kind of maid she'd be.'
'She would be tall,
She would be fair,
She would have slender limbs,
A delicate air;
And yet for all her beauty
She would walk
Among my guests unseen
And through their talk
Her voice would be the sweet voice of a bird,
Not listened to, though heard.'
'And now I know the girl you have in mind
Tell me her duties, if you'd be so kind.'
She must know names of wines
And never taste them—
Must handle fragile cups
And never break them—
Must fill my rooms with flowers
And never wear them—
Must serve my daughter's secrets
And not share them.'
'Madam, you are no God, that's plain to see.
I'll just repeat what you have said to me.
You say your maid must look in Helen fashion
Golden and white
And yet her loveliness inspire no passion,
Give no delight.
Your intimate goods of home must owe their beauty
To this girl's care
But she'll not overstep her path of duty
Nor seek to share
Through loving or enjoying or possessing
The least of them.
Why, she's not human, by your own confessing,
And you condemn
Your rational self in every word you're speaking!
You'll find the hollow maiden you are seeking
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