The Secret Key and Other Verses

A Commonplace Song

George Essex Evans

EBBS and flows the restless river
    In the city street
Where the great nerve centres quiver,
    Where the pulses beat.
Where the human waves are driving
    Drifts a woman’s face,
White and worn by ceaseless striving
    With the commonplace.

Want has written strange inscriptions
    On the brow and cheek;
Pain could weave some weird descriptions
    If the lips would speak;
Toil has touched the lines of beauty
    And, the curves of grace.
Comeliness is good, but duty
    Rules the commonplace.

Thick-soled shoes and shabby bonnet,
    Dingy cotton gloves,
Old turned dress with darns upon it
    (Not what woman loves),
Gaunt umbrella, green with weather—
    One must self efface
To keep home and bairns together
    In the commonplace.

Late and early, never shirking
    Tub and scrub and broom,
Late at night with needle working
    In the dwelling-room;
Yet when week’s receipts are thinner
    Grocers’ bills to face—
Tenpence means three children’s dinner
    In the commonplace!

Poets sing their wild Iambics—
    Love and War and Gods—
Let us sing of humble women
    Fighting fearful odds,
Not where steel and bullets rattle
    And the squadrons race,
But the grim unending battle
    With the commonplace.

Now they shriek the creeds are dying!
    Faith is of the air!
Wailfully their lyres are sighing
    Sonnets of despair!
All the scheme of things evolving
    Somehow out of Space!
Darken then, instead of solving,
    This grim commonplace!

Rogues may win success and glory,
    Beauty pride of fame,
Statesmen make a nation’s story,
    Poets deathless name.
But the patient woman Toiler
    What is hers to win?
On the one hand—Want, the Spoiler,
    On the other—Sin!

Ye who swear and strut and bluster,
    So-called manly pride,
When you answer at the muster
    On the other side,
Will the courage you have vaunted
    Stand you in such grace
As weak hands that fought undaunted
    With the commonplace?

Noblest worth works ever humbly,
    Oftest is unseen,
Half the world is toiling dumbly
    In the gray routine.
Sing, O Poet of the Morrow!
    Cheer the weary face
Where brave women moil and sorrow
    In the commonplace!

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