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The Wages Of Sin
by [?]

I am an outcast, sinful and vile I know,
But what are you, my lady, so fair, and proud, and high?
The fringe of your robe just touched me, me so low–
Your feet defiled, I saw the scorn in your eye,
And the jeweled hand, that drew back your garments fine.
What should you say if I told you to your face
Your robes are dyed with as deep a stain as mine,
The only difference is you are better paid for disgrace.

You loved a man, you promised to be his bride,
Strong vows you gave, you were in the sight of Heaven his wife,
And when you sold yourself for another’s wealth, he died;
And what is that but murder? To take a life
That is a little beyond my guilt, I ween,
To murder the one you love is a crime of deeper grade
Than mine, yet in purple you walk on the earth a queen;
I think the wages of sin are very unequally paid.

For what did you receive when you sold yourself for his gold,
When with guilty loathing you plighted your white, false hand,
A palace in town and country, his name long centuries old,
A carriage with coachmen and footmen, wealth in broad tracts
of land,
Wealth in coffers and vaults, high station, the family gems,
For these you stood at God’s altar and swore to a lie;
But smother your conscience to silence if it condemns,
With this you are liberally paid for your life of infamy.

What wages did I receive when I gave myself for his love,
So young, so weak, and loving him, loving him so–
What did I get for my sin, O merciful God above!
But the terrible, terrible wages–pain and want and woe;
The world’s scorn, and my own contempt and disdain,
The hideous hue of guilt that stares in every eye.
Like you I cannot ‘broider with gold my garments’ stain,
You see, my lady, you get far better wages than I.

In your constancy to sin you far exceed my power,
Since that day marked with blackness from other days–
The day before your marriage–never since that hour
Have I heard his voice, have I looked upon his face;
For I threw his gold at his feet and stole away
Anywhere–anywhere–only out of his sight,
Longing to hide from the mocking glare of the day,
Longing to cover my eyes forever away from the light.

And long I strove to hate him, for I thought
I was so young, a friendless orphan left to his care,
It was a terrible sin that he had wrought,
And since I had the burden of guilt to bear
It was enough without the wild despair of love,
So I strove to reason my passionate love to hate.
Can we kneel with tears and bid the strong sun move
Away from the sky? It is vain to war with fate.

That a hard life I have lived since then, ’tis true,
My hands are unblackened by sinful wages since that day,
And my baby died, I was not fit, God knew
To guide a sinless soul, so He took my bird away;
And my heart was empty and lone as a robin’s winter nest,
With the trusting eyes that never looked scornfully,
The head that nestled fearlessly on my guilty breast,
And the little constant hands that clung to me, even me.

But I knew it were best for God to unclasp her hand
From mine, while yet she clung to it in trust,
Than for her to draw it from me, live to understand,
Blush for her mother–had she lived she must.
And then she had her father’s smile, and his soft, dark eyes,
Maybe she would have had his fair, false ways–his heart.
It is well that she passed through the starry gate of the skies
Though it closed and bars us forever and ever apart.