The Helpless Mothers


Henry Lawson

I WALKED with Man in his Paradise,
    That lies in the city street;
The air is foul, and the Halls of Vice
    Are free to his children’s feet.
The children fall where the father fell,
    Where the snares of ruin are;
The son goes down through the gates of Hell
    By the father left ajar.
The mother works “as the woman should”,
    But weeps when the day is done
And hides her face in the hands that could,
    But may not, save her son.

I walk with Man in his Paradise,
    And ask if his rule be just.
Small vengeance follows the sacrifice
    Of the daughter’s soul to lust!
The mother shares in the shame, but not
    In the rule that lets it live,
She fights unarmed, and the tears are hot
    For the shield she cannot give.
She breaks her heart for the boy astray
    Or the girl that is defiled.
But has not even the right to say;
    “They shall not tempt my child!

I say to Man in his Paradise
    That justice must now be done
To her who’s slave (says the Arab) thrice;
    To the father, husband and son.
A poor wife hungers in rooms that are
    As bare as the barren street,
And longs for a law that would close the bar
    To her husband’s wavering feet.
“’Tis I who suffer for all,” she sobs,
    “O why is the landlord free
To thrive on my hushand’s vice, that robs
    My little ones and me?”

The streets are filled with the snares that lurk
    In the wayward children’s path.
Yet people say that a woman’s work
    Is still by the homely hearth.
But the stagnant air of the world is srirred
    By the voice despised so long:
The woman’s voice in the land is heard,—
    The words of a strange new song.
We’ll know the worth of a purer youth
    When the women rule with men,
For love virtue and peace and truth
    Shall save the world again.

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