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An Erring Woman’s Love
by [?]


She was a light and wanton maid:
Not one whom fickle Love betrayed,
For indolence was her undoer.
Fair, frivolous, and very poor,
She scorned the thought of toil, in youth,
And chose the path that leads from truth.

More women fall from want of gold
Than love leads wrong, if truth were told;
More women sin for gay attire
Than sin through passion’s blinding fire.
Her god was gold: and gold she saw
Prove mightier than the sternest law
With judge and jury, priest and king;
So, made herself an offering
At Mammon’s shrine; and lived for power,
And ease, and pleasures of the hour.

Who looks beneath life’s outer crust
Is satisfied that God is just;
Who looks not under, but about,
Finds much to make him sad with doubt.
For Virtue walks with feet worn bare,
While Sin rides by with coach and pair:
Men praise the modest heart and chaste,
And yet they let it go to waste,
And follow, fierce to have and hold,
Some creature, wanton, selfish, bold.

She saw but this, life’s outer side,
No higher faith was hers to guide;
She worshipped gold, and hated toil,
And hence her youth with all its soil,
With all its sins too dark to name,
Of secret crimes and public shame,
With all its trail of broken lives,
Of ruined homes, neglected wives,
And weeping mothers. Proud and gay
She went her devastating way
With untouched brow and fadeless grace.

Not time, but feeling, marks the face.
Sin on the outer being tells
Not till the startled soul rebels:
And she felt nothing but content.
She was too light and indolent
To worry over days to come.
This little earth held all life’s sum,
She thought, and to be young and fair,
Well clothed, well fed, was all her care.
With pitying eyes and lifted head
She gazed on those who toiled for bread,
And laughed to scorn the talk she heard
Of punishment for those who erred,
And virtue’s certain recompense.
She seemed devoid of moral sense,
An ignorant thing whose appetites
Bound her horizon of delights.

Men were her puppets to control;
Unconscious of a heart or soul
She lived, and gloried in the ease
She purchased by her power to please
The eye and senses. Life’s one woe
Which caused her pitying tears to flow
Was poverty. Though hearts might break
And homes be ruined for her sake,
She showed no mercy. But when need
Of gold she saw, her heart would bleed.
The lack of clothing, fire, and food
Was earth’s one pain, she understood.

The suffering poor oft blest her name,
Nor questioned whence the ducats came,
She gave so freely. Once she found
A fainting woman on the ground,
A wailing child clasped to her breast.
With her own hands she bathed and dressed
The weary waifs! gave food and gold
And clothed them warmly from the cold,
Nor guessed that one she lured from home
Had caused that suffering pair to roam
Unhoused, neglected. Then one day,
Unheralded across her way,
The conqueror came. She knew not why,
But with the first glance of his eye
A feeling, new and unexplained,
Woke in her what she oft had feigned.
And when his arm stole near her waist,
As startled maidens blush with chaste
Sweet fear at love’s advances, so
She blushed from brow to breast of snow.
Strange, new emotions, fraught with joy
And pain commingled, made her coy;
But when he would have clasped her neck
With gems that might a queen bedeck
And offered gold, her lips grew white
With sudden anger at the sight
Of what had been her god for years.
She flung them from her. Then such tears
As only spring from love’s despair
Welled from her eyes. “So, lady fair,
My gifts are scorned?” quoth he, and laughed.
“Like Cleopatra, you have quaffed
Such lordly pearls in draughts of wine,
You spurn poor simple gems like mine.
Well, well, fair queen, I’ll bring to you
A richer gift next time. Adieu.”