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A Ballad Of Fair Ladies In Revolt
by [?]


– My version, madam, runs not to that end.
A certain madness of an hour half past,
Caught her like fever; her just lord no friend
She fancied; aimed beyond beauty, and thence grew
The prim acerbity, sweet Love’s outcast.
Great heaven ward off that stroke from you!


– Your prayer to heaven, good sir, is generous:
How generous likewise that you do not name
Offended nature! She from all of us
Couched idle underneath our showering tree,
May quite withhold her most destructive flame;
And then what woeful women we!


– Quite, could not be, fair lady; yet your youth
May run to drought in visionary schemes:
And a late waking to perceive the truth,
When day falls shrouding her supreme adieu,
Shows darker wastes than unaccomplished dreams:
And that may be in store for you.


– O sir, the truth, the truth! is’t in the skies,
Or in the grass, or in this heart of ours?
But O the truth, the truth! the many eyes
That look on it! the diverse things they see,
According to their thirst for fruit or flowers!
Pass on: it is the truth seek we.


– Lady, there is a truth of settled laws
That down the past burns like a great watch-fire.
Let youth hail changeful mornings; but your cause,
Whetting its edge to cut the race in two,
Is felony: you forfeit the bright lyre,
Much honour and much glory you!


– Sir, was it glory, was it honour, pride,
And not as cat and serpent and poor slave,
Wherewith we walked in union by your side?
Spare to false womanliness her delicacy,
Or bid true manliness give ear, we crave:
In our defence thus chained are we.


– Yours, madam, were the privileges of life
Proper to man’s ideal; you were the mark
Of action, and the banner in the strife:
Yea, of your very weakness once you drew
The strength that sounds the wells, outflies the lark:
Wrapped in a robe of flame were you!


– Your friend looks thoughtful. Sir, when we were chill,
You clothed us warmly; all in honour! when
We starved you fed us; all in honour still:
Oh, all in honour, ultra-honourably!
Deep is the gratitude we owe to men,
For privileged indeed were we!


– You cite exceptions, madam, that are sad,
But come in the red struggle of our growth.
Alas, that I should have to say it! bad
Is two-sexed upon earth: this which you do,
Shows animal impatience, mental sloth:
Man monstrous! pining seraphs you!


– I fain would ask your friend . . . but I will ask
You, sir, how if in place of numbers vague,
Your sad exceptions were to break that mask
They wear for your cool mind historically,
And blaze like black lists of a PRESENT plague?
But in that light behold them we.


– Your spirit breathes a mist upon our world,
Lady, and like a rain to pierce the roof
And drench the bed where toil-tossed man lies curled
In his hard-earned oblivion! You are few,
Scattered, ill-counselled, blinded: for a proof,
I have lived, and have known none like you.


– We may be blind to men, sir: we embrace
A future now beyond the fowler’s nets.
Though few, we hold a promise for the race
That was not at our rising: you are free
To win brave mates; you lose but marionnettes.
He who’s for us, for him are we.


– Ah! madam, were they puppets who withstood
Youth’s cravings for adventure to preserve
The dedicated ways of womanhood?
The light which leads us from the paths of rue,
That light above us, never seen to swerve,
Should be the home-lamp trimmed by you.