Poor Housekeeping.

A poem by Hattie Howard

If there is one gift that I prize above others,
That tinges with brightness whatever I do,
And gives to the sombre a roseate hue,
'Tis a legacy mine from the nicest of mothers,
Who haply the beauty of housewifery knew,
And taught me her neatness and diligence too.

So is my discomfort a house in disorder:
The service uncleanly, the linen distained,
The children like infantry rude and untrained;
The portieres dusty and frayed at the border,
By lavish expenses the pocketbook drained,
And miseries numberless never explained.

I dream not of pleasure in visions untidy,
A wrapper all hole-y, a buttonless shoe,
A slatternly matron with nothing to do;
And all the ill-luck charged to ominous Friday
Can never compare with the ills that ensue
On wretched housekeeping and cookery too.

There's many a husband, a patient bread-winner,
Gets up from the table with look of despair,
And something akin to the growl of a bear;
Not the saint he might be, but a querulous sinner -
One driven to fasting but not unto prayer -
Till epitaphed thus - "Indigestible Fare."

There's many a child, from the roof-tree diurnal,
A scene of distraction or dullness severe,
With the longing of youth for diversion and cheer,
That comes like the spring-time refreshing and vernal,
Goes out on a ruinous, reckless career,
Returning, if ever, not many a year.

O negligent female, imperfect housekeeper,
Though faultless in figure and charming of face,
In ruffles of ribbon and trailings of lace
Usurping the part of a common street-sweeper,
You never can pose as a type of your race
In frowsy appearance mid things out of place.

O fashion-bred damsel, with folly a-flutter,
Until you have learned how to manage a broom,
If never you know how to tidy a room,
Manipulate bread or decide about butter,
The duties of matron how dare you assume,
Or ever be bride to a sensible groom?

I covet no part with that army of shirkers
All down at the heels in their slipper-y tread,
Who hunt for the rolling-pin under the bed,
Who look with disdain on intelligent workers
And take to the club or the circus instead
Of mending a stocking or laying the spread.

Oh, I dream of a system of perfect housekeeping,
Where mistress and helper together compete
In excellent management, quiet and neat;
And though in the bosom of earth I am sleeping,
Shall somebody live to whom life will be sweet
And home an ideal, idyllic retreat.

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