The Helpless Mothers
Henry Lawson, 1891
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.