Richard Le Gallienne

(1866-1947 / England)

The Valiant Girls - Poem by Richard Le Gallienne

The valiant girls--of them I sing--
Who daily to their business go,
Happy as larks, and fresh as spring;
They are the bravest things I know.
At eight, from out my lazy tower,
I watch the snow, and shake my head;
But yonder petticoated flower
Braves it alone, with aery tread;
Nor wind, nor rain, nor ice-fanged storm,
Frightens that valiant little form.

Strange! she that sweetens all the air,
The New York sister of the rose,
To a grim office should repair,
With picture-hat and silken hose,
And strange it is to see her there,
With powder on her little nose;
And yet how business-like is she,
With pad and pencil on her knee.

Changed are the times--no stranger sign,
If you but think the matter over,
Than she, the delicate, the divine,
Whose lot seemed only love and lover,
Should to Life's rough and muddy wheel
So gravely set her pretty shoulder;--
(What would her dead grandmother feel,
If someone woke her up and told her!)
Yet bate not, through her dreary duty,
One jot of womanhood or beauty.

A woman still--yes! still a girl,
She changes, yet she does not change,
A moon-lit creature made of pearl
And filled with music sad and strange:
The while she takes your gruff dictation,
Who knows her secret meditation!
Most skilled of all our new machines,
She sits there at the telephone,
Prettier far than fabled queens;
Yea! Greece herself has never known,
Nor Phidias wrought, nor Homer sung,
Girls fairer than the girls that throng,
So serious and so debonair,
At morn and eve, the Subway stair;
A bright processional of faces,
So valiant--for all their laces.

The girls that work! that take their share
In Life's grim battle, hard and rough,
Wearing their crowns of silken hair,
Armed only with a powder-puff:
These, not the women of old time,
Though, doubtless, they were fair enough,
Shall be the theme for modern rhyme.
Nay! never shall our hearts forget
The flower face of Juliet,
Or Helen on her golden throne;
But there shall come a Homer yet,
A Shakespeare still to fame unknown,
To sing among the stars up there
Fair Helen, the stenographer,
Sweet Juliet of the telephone.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

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