For the Women
We knit a riven land to strength by cannon, code, and sword;
We drove the road for all men's feet, we bridged the raving ford;
We cleared the waste of force and wrong, we bade the land be still;
And whereso'er that will was good, we wrought the people's will.
The Wisdom of the West is theirs—our schools are free to all.
The strength of all the West is theirs, to prop them lest they fall;
And men may say what things they please, and none dare stay their tongue.
But who has spoken out for these—the women and the young?
Who know but you, O men we taught, and men who teach us now,
Co-heirs of our eight hundred years, and ... Servants of the Cow—
Who know but you the life you cloak, secure from alien stare?
Are all our gifts for men alone, or may your women share?
Small wish have they for learning's light or Wisdom of the West;
Small wish have you that they should learn, or we should break their rest.
But—pitiless as when He spoke, untempered, quick to slay—
The curse God laid on Eve is theirs for heritage to-day.
You know the `Hundred Danger Time' when, gay with paint and flowers,
Your household Gods are bribed to help the bitter, helpless hours;
You know the worn and rotten mat whereon the mother lies;
You know the sootak room unclean, the cell wherein she dies—
Dies, with the babble in her ear of midwife's muttered charm,
Dies, 'spite young Life that strains to stay, the suckling in her arm,
Dies in the three-times-heated air, scorched by the Birth-fire's breath,
Foredoomed, you say, lest anguish lack, to haunt her home in death.
These things you know, and more than these—grim secrets of the Dead,
Foul horrors done in ignorance, by Time on Folly bred.
The women have no voice to speak, but none can check your pen—
Turn for a moment from your strife and plead their cause, O men!
[Help now—for your own sakes give help. Look! since the world began
Was never people walked apart—the woman from the man,
And you are rich in all our lore, you make our thoughts your own—
But, by the mothers of your race you cannot rise alone;]
Help here—and not for us the boon and not to us the gain;
Make room to save the babe from death, the mother from her pain.
Is it so great a thing we ask? Is there no road to find
When women of our people seek to help your womenkind?
No word to sap their faith, no talk of Christ or creed need be,
But woman's help in woman's need and woman's ministry.
Such healing as the West can give, that healing may they win.
Draw back the purdahs for their sakes, and pass our women in!