|Edwardian Woman on the Beach (1900)|
by Thomas Pollock Anshutz
SHE leaned above the river's sedgy brink—"The Young Wife" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Lyrics of Life (1909).
The little wife—half-minded there to drink
Forgetfulness of all the grief and pride
That overwhelmed her spirit like a tide.
She had so blindly trusted! Yet doubt grew—
Whence it had sprung, alas! she hardly knew,—
A hydra-headed monster that devoured
Her happiness ere fully it had flowered.
He who had been her truth!—could he betray?
"Ah, let me die," she cried, "or quickly stay,
Thou who bestowed, unasked, this gift of breath,
Imaginings more terrible than death!"
Lone and forespent, she leaned her heavily
Against a willow; when she seemed to see—
Doubting if that indeed she saw or dreamed,
So full of mystery the vision seemed—
A form unknown, ineffable in grace,
With look compassionate bent on her face.
"Thy tears have moved the Heart Omnipotent,
Wherefore I come, to thee in pity sent,—"
So, as she thought, the wondrous vision spake,—
"To serve thee, if I may, e'en though I make
Confession, grievous unto me, who know
My folly was forgiven long ago. . . .
"A youth was I who fondly pleasure sought,
Careless to ask how dearly it was bought;
Who passed my days in idleness, nor guessed
How close the coils of evil round me pressed,
"Till, like some swimmer boastful of his strength
Who dares too far, I faced the truth at length—
Perceived the awful distance I had come,
And, battling back, despaired of reaching home.
"Then I had perished in my utter need,
Had no one trusted me beyond my meed;
But—I reached port at last, my fate withstood,
Because one woman still believed me good."
Softly the vision faded, and was gone.
The young wife by the river stood alone;
Musing, she lingered there a little while,
And to her pensive lips there came a smile.