“Of Factory Girls and Serving Maids – Victorian Working Class Women” (and Christmas)
Thank you, Meagan Timney, for this archive of poems by working-class women in Victorian England. This one seems apt for Christmas as we (smart women) consider our labor and what our hearts call us to accomplish:
They speak in stately, sounding words,
About our “mission” here,
And while they speak, my quivering lids,
Can scarce retain the tear.
They talk of noble destinies,
Of grand and god-like deeds;
Such souls must surely hear the flowers,
Mine only beareth weeds!
I am not called to distant scenes
To sacrifice my life,
To preach the gospel-words of peace
To savages in strife.
I am not called to prison cells
To soothe the souls of woe;
No Howard mission is for me,
My destiny is low.
God knows all hero-acts and thoughts
Find echoes in my heart,
And with a steady fervency
I too would do my part;
But ’tis not given me to write
Upon the world my name,
Or send up to its giddy height
The glory of my fame.
I am a pebble, gently cast
Into this ocean-tide;
The wavelets, as they circle past,
Seem neither deep nor wide;
Yet calm and noiseless ride they on
Far out unto the sea,
And are assuredly a force
In Life’s Infinity.
There is a “mission” then for me,
Though humble, yet divine;
A faint, soft light may stream from me,
Though not a star to shine.
What work lies nearest to my hand
That may I nobly do;
And midst our homely, household band,
Be simple, loving, true.
Beside my hearth, and at my door,
Kind words may sweetly fall;
And he is sure not very poor
Who gladly blesseth all!
O’er common things and common ways
A holy halo sheds:
For all unknown, the gentle tone
A merry sunlight spreads!
I may not sway the multitude
With witchery, wild and strong;
But here, amidst my solitude,
I weave a hopeful song.
I am content with these my powers,
With these my lowly deeds,
Rememb’ring, He who formed the flowers
Hath also made the weeds!