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Poem by Lewis Morris

In Regent Street

ONE of the nightly hundreds who pass
Wearily, hopelessly, under the gas.

But the old sad words had a strange new tone,
And the wild laugh seemed to sink to a moan.

So that turning as one constrained to look,
The strange sight stifled the voice of rebuke :

For I looked on a girl's face pure and fair,
Blue-eyed, and crowned with a glory of hair,

Such as my dead child-sister might own,
Were she not a child still, but a woman grown ;

Full of the tender graces that come
To the cherished light of an ancient home ;

Even to that touch of a high disdain,
Which is born of a name without blot or stain.

Strange ; as if one should chance to meet
An angel of light in that sordid street !

' O child, what misery brings you here,
To this place of vileness and weeping and fear?'

' I am no more than the rest,' she said,
Proudly averting her beautiful head !

Then no response, till some kinder word
Stole in unawares, and her heart was stirred.

' I was a wife but the other day,
Now I am left without hope or stay !

' Work did I ask ? What work is for you?
What work can those delicate fingers do?

' Service? But how could I bear to part
From the child with whom I had left my heart ?

' Alms ? Yes, at first ; then a pitiless No:
The State would provide me whithei to go.

' But in sordid prisons it laid my head
With the thief and the harlot ; therefore I fled.

' One thing alone had I left untried,
Then I put off the last rag of pride.'

' What came? ' You were of an honoured race,
Now you must live with your own disgrace.'

'But many will buy where few will give,
And I die every day that my child may live.'

Motherly love sunk to this ! Ah, well,
Teach they not how He went down into hell:

Only blind me in heart and brain,
Or ever I look on the like again. 

Lewis Morris

Lewis Morris's other poems:
  1. Marching
  2. On a Modern Painted Window
  3. Other Days
  4. Dear Little Hand
  5. To a Child of Fancy

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