Online Poems

for Craig White's Literature Courses

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935)


In dark and early ages, through the primal forests faring,

Ere the soul came shining into prehistoric night,

Twofold man was equal; they were comrades dear and daring,

Living wild and free together in unreasoning delight.


Ere the soul was born and consciousness came slowly,

Ere the soul was born, to man and woman, too,

Ere he found the Tree of Knowledge, that awful tree and holy,

Ere he knew he felt, and knew he knew.


Then said he to Pain, "I am wise now, and I know you!

No more will I suffer while power and wisdom last!"

Then said he to Pleasure, "I am strong, and I will show you

That the will of man can seize you,aye, and hold you fast!"


Food he ate for pleasure, and wine he drank for gladness.

And woman? Ah, the woman! the crown of all delight!

His now,he knew it! He was strong to madness

In that early dawning after prehistoric night.


His,his forever! That glory sweet and tender!

Ah, but he would love her! And she should love but him!

He would work and struggle for her, he would shelter and defend her,

She should never leave him, never, till their eyes in death were dim.


Close, close he bound her, that she should leave him never;

Weak still he kept her, lest she be strong to flee;

And the fainting flame of passion he kept alive forever

With all the arts and forces of earth and sky and sea.


And, ah, the long journey! The slow and awful ages

They have labored up together, blind and crippled, all astray!

Through what a mighty volume, with a million shameful pages,

From the freedom of the forests to the prisons of to-day!


Food he ate for pleasure, and it slew him with diseases!

Wine he drank for gladness, and it led the way to crime!

And woman? He will hold her,he will have her when he pleases

And he never once hath seen her since the prehistoric time!


Gone the friend and comrade of the day when life was younger,

She who rests and comforts, she who helps and saves.

Still he seeks her vainly, with a never-dying hunger;

Alone beneath his tyrants, alone above his slaves!


Toiler, bent and weary with the load of thine own making!

Thou who art sad and lonely, though lonely all in vain!

Who hast sought to conquer Pleasure and have her for the taking,

And found that Pleasure only was another name for Pain


Nature hath reclaimed thee, forgiving dispossession!

God hath not forgotten, though man doth still forget!

The woman-soul is rising, in despite of thy transgression

Loose her now, and trust her! She will love thee yet!


Love thee? She will love thee as only freedom knoweth!

Love thee? She will love thee while Love itself doth live!

Fear not the heart of woman! No bitterness it showeth!

The ages of her sorrow have but taught her to forgive!