Three women stood by the river's flood
In the gas-lamp's murky light,
A devil watched them on the left,
And an angel on the right.
The clouds of lead flowed overhead;
The leaden stream below;
They marvelled much, that outcast three,
Why Fate should use them so.
Said one: "I have a mother dear,
Who lieth ill abed,
And by my sin the wage I win
From which she hath her bread."
Said one: "I am an outcast's child,
And such I came on earth.
If me ye blame, for this my shame,
Whom blame ye for my birth?"
The third she sank a sin-blotched face,
And prayed that she might rest,
In the weary flow of the stream below,
As on her mother's breast.
Now past there came a godly man,
Of goodly stock and blood,
And as he passed one frown he cast
At that sad sisterhood.
Sorely it grieved that godly man,
To see so foul a sight,
He turned his face, and strode apace,
And left them to the night.
But the angel drew her sisters three,
Within her pinions' span,
And the crouching devil slunk away
To join the godly man.