Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BALLAD OF THE LADY IN HELL, by ANNETTE PATTON CORNELL

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BALLAD OF THE LADY IN HELL, by            
First Line: The devil was bored with the whole affair
Last Line: The angel and god and the lady wept.
Subject(s): Sin

The Devil was bored with the whole affair.
He yawned while he lolled in his judgment chair,
Impatient with even the ones who swerved
From God and themselves that his ends be served.
Three fiends slammed the door of the draughty hall
And all Hell gazed on a woman -- small --
Defiant -- though tortured -- with mouth still sweet
With mortal caresses at Satan's feet.
The Devil is fair, though he plays to win.
"Just what," he inquired, "was the lady's sin?"
The first fiend bent low, "She was one man's wife --
She loved two men dearly through half her life."
The second fiend spoke, "Though she sewed straight seams
And swept her floor clean -- still she dreamed her dreams."
"She bore one man's children," the third fiend said,
"She pledged him her soul -- but her soul is dead!"
"Just what," said the Devil, "do you imply?"
"We state," the three shouted, "she lived a lie!
She gave one her body -- she shirked no task --
Her song was a shield and her smile a mask!
Her dreams were a gossamer road that ran
From year on to year to another man."
The Devil smiled thinly, "From what you tell
I judge that the lady has had her Hell."
The gate against sinners was half ajar.
The lady slipped by the celestial bar.
An angel approached with a flaming sword --
"What boon dost thou ask of the kindly Lord?"
The lady was weary and very sad.
"I came though unbidden, for once I had
The gift of all gifts and I could not pay
In full -- I seek only to kneel and pray.
I pray to forget him who came too late!
I want to go back through the star chained gate --
To dream the old dreams that I cherished when
I knew but one voice in the world of men.
To see one man's face and to be soul free
For Him would be Heaven enough for me."

* * *

While down on the earth two -- unheeding -- slept
The angel and God and the lady wept.

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