Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

WIDOWS, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: For twenty years and more surviving after
Last Line: Patience and the withered hands of toil
Subject(s): Widows & Widowers

For twenty years and more surviving after
Their husbands have been hidden away,
Gray, old, thin, or obese, day after day
Pillowed in luxury, waking with quavering laughter
From the drowsiness of midday food,
They sit, fingering long strands of crystals,
Reading a little in a waking mood;
Or waiting for the postman with epistles,
Or for telephones, or callers coming to tea.
Bonds, stocks, are theirs; or pensions it may be,
Since the long-dead husband, under-salaried,
Helped to subdue some barbarous isle;
Now that he lies with the half-forgotten dead,
His widow draws an honorarium,
To prop her prestige yet a little while.
The public treasury is rich, and feels
The drain but little; yet it is a sum
Which would relieve the anxious mind whose zeals
For thought and progress dread the time to come.
In the hives of all the cities, high above
The smoke and noise, where the air is pure,
Are numberless widows, comfortable and secure,
Protected by the watchman and God's love;
Saved by the Church, and by the lawyer served,
And by the actor, dancer, novelist amused.
Some practise poetry; some, who are younger nerved,
Dabble in sculpture; but all are used
To win the attention of celebrities
At dinners, or at the opera, to imbibe
The high vitality of purchased devotees.
But when not modeling, or scribbling verse,
Nor drinking tea, nor tottering forth to dine,
They sit concocting some new bribe
To life for soul relief; they count what's in their purse;
They stare at the window half asleep from wine
Or poppy juice; they wait the luncheon hour;
They visit with their maids; or they receive
The heads of research schools, the which they dower,
Or magazines, the better to achieve
A place in memory or a present power;
Or out of social bitterness they dictate
The policies of journals, and compel
Adherence to their husbands' inveterate
Violence, like souls that brood in hell.
From rents and funds, prescriptions, old mortmains
They gather with fingers brown fron^ moldy spots
Exhaustless gold, with which they feed the veins
Of palsied privilege, and they foil the plots
Of living generations against the dying brains.
The hives of all the cities are full of these
Widows, who in a complexity of combs
Live in forsakeness and listless ease:
All is deserted about them in such homes.
Long has the rain fallen, and the snow been piled
On the man under the trees outdoors;
Even the bones in granite domiciled
Have fallen apart - but still the widow sits
By the window resting above the city's floors.
The drone, the gadfly, or the hornet flits
About her lifeless hive; and she may gasp
Beholding at times the black bees of the rites
Of dead men, drag a fallen bee or wasp
To the outdoors of ram or starry nights.
And then she shudders, knowing the time is soon
When the chaufTeur of the ebon car will call
To take her from the city where the moon
Will eye the loneliness of hills; and all
Her crystal necklaces and possessions will be strewn;
And all the rentals of her lands,
And dividends will re-assume with wings
New shapes before the same insatiate hands.
And in the city there are numberless women,
Widows grown old and lame, who scrub, or wait
On entrance doors, or cook; whose lonely fate
Is part of the city's pageant, part of the human
Necessity, victims of profligate
Or unprevisioned life' They have no spoil,
No dividends, and no power of subsidy
Over the world of care and poverty;
They have but patience and a little room,
Patience and the withered hands of toil.

Discover our Poem Explanations and Poet Analyses!

Other Poems of Interest...

Home: PoetryExplorer.net