2. THE WORKING GIRL.
BENEATH my window, as each morning dawns,
You like a wandering ghost go flitting by,
And on your beauteous virgin head there fall
Tears from my rose vine, leafless now and dry.
I hear your footsteps in the silent street,
And the awakened dog that barks at you;
Or in my sleep I hear the constant cough
That racks your lovely bosom through and through.
I think that you are hungry, robbed of sleep,
Your body shivering in the breezes cold,
And on your tresses, O my sister! Lies
The frost, like jewels, glittering to behold.
Or else, I think, your shoes are torn and rent;
The water from the street is oozing through;
Or impudently, as you pass along,
Some scoundrel Turk is whistling after you.
I think that ill at home your mother lies,
And that the oil which fed the lamp is dry,
And to the factory you go, to toil
For light and life. I think of it, and sigh!
I think of it, and madly then I wish
I might come down, my pallid sister dear,
Come down to you, to kiss your thin, frail hand,
And whisper low, “I love you!” in your ear.
I love your sorrow, which is mine as well—
My grief of griefs, all other woes above;
I love your shattered breast, where still your love
Sings on and on—a skylark wild with love.
Pale girl, I long to press you to my heart
Like some poor banished dove, forlorn and lone—
Give you my strength, my prizes won from fame,
And my untarnished name to be your own.
Fain would I be your honor’s veil and screen,
My breast a shield for your defenceless breast.
If I could guard, with arms as granite strong,
Your sex and your grave beauty, I were blest!
Fain would I give you all that I have won
In life’s hard struggle, all I have of good—
Crown you with roses of my victory,
Roses that wear the color of my blood;
Only that never more, my sister dear,
You should be pale and hungry, coughing sore,
And that your mother’s lamp should not go out,
And to the factory you should go no more!
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