There was a woman, and she was wise; woefully wise was she;
She was old, so old, yet her years all told were but a score and three;
And she knew by heart, from finish to start, the Book of Iniquity.
There is no hope for such as I, on earth nor yet in Heaven;
Unloved I live, unloved I die, unpitied, unforgiven;
A loathèd jade I ply my trade, unhallowed and unshriven.
I paint my cheeks, for they are white, and cheeks of chalk men hate;
Mine eyes with wine I make to shine, that men may seek and sate;
With overhead a lamp of red I sit me down and wait.
Until they come, the nightly scum, with drunken eyes aflame;
Your sweethearts, sons, ye scornful ones - 'tis I who know their shame;
The gods ye see are brutes to me - and so I play my game.
For life is not the thing we thought, and not the thing we plan;
And woman in a bitter world must do the best she can;
Must yield the stroke, and bear the yoke, and serve the will of man;
Must serve his need and ever feed the flame of his desire;
Though be she loved for love alone, or be she loved for hire;
For every man since life began is tainted with the mire.
And though you know he love you so, and set you on love's throne,
Yet let your eyes but mock his sighs, and let your heart be stone,
Lest you be left (as I was left) attainted and alone.
From love's close kiss to hell's abyss is one sheer flight, I trow;
And wedding-ring and bridal bell are will-o'-wisps of woe;
And 'tis not wise to love too well, and this all women know.
Wherefore, the wolf-pack having gorged upon the lamb, their prey,
With siren smile and serpent guile I make the wolf-pack pay;
With velvet paws and flensing claws, a tigress roused to slay.
One who in youth sought truest truth, and found a devil's lies;
A symbol of the sin of man, a human sacrifice:
Yet shall I blame on man the shame? Could it be otherwise?
Was I not born to walk in scorn where others walk in pride?
The Maker marred, and evil-starred I drift upon His tide;
And He alone shall judge His own, so I His judgment bide.
Fate has written a tragedy; its name is "The Human Heart."
The theatre is the House of Life, Woman the mummer's part:
The Devil enters the prompter's box and the play is ready to start.