One Among So Many.
. . . In a dark street she met and spoke to me,
Importuning, one wet and mild March night.
We walked and talked together. O her tale
Was very common; thousands know it all!
Seduced; a gentleman; a baby coming;
Parents that railed; London; the child born dead;
A seamstress then, one of some fifty girls
"Taken on" a few months at a dressmaker's
In the crush of the "season;" thirteen shillings a week!
The fashionable people's dresses done,
And they flown off, these fifty extra girls
Sent - to the streets: that is, to work that gives
Scarcely enough to buy the decent clothes
Respectable employers all demand
Or speak dismissal. Well, well, well, we know!
And she - "Why, I have gone on down and down,
And there's the gutter, look, that I shall die in!"
"My dear," I say, "where hope of all but that
Is gone, 'tis time, I think, life were gone too."
She looks at me. "That I should kill myself?" -
"That you should kill yourself." - "That would be sin,
And God would punish me!" - "And will not God
Punish for this?" She pauses: then whispers:
"No, no, He will forgive me, for He knows!"
I laughed aloud: "And you," she said, "and you,
Who are so good, so noble" . . . "Noble? Good?"
I laughed aloud, the great sob in my throat.
O my poor darling, O my little lost sheep
Of this vast flock that perishes alone
Out in the pitiless desert! - Yet she'd speak:
She'd ask me: she'd entreat: she'd demonstrate.
O I must not say that! I must believe!
Who made the sea, the leaves so green, the sky
So big and blue and pure above it all?
O my poor darling, O my little lost sheep,
Entreat no more and demonstrate no more;
For I believe there is a God, a God
Not in the heaven, the earth, or the waters; no,
But in the heart of man, on the dear lips
Of angel women, of heroic men!
O hopeless wanderer that would not stay,
("It is too late, I cannot rise again!")
O saint of faith in love behind the veils,
("You must believe in God, for you are good!"),
O sister who made holy with your kiss,
Your kiss in that wet dark mild night of March
There in the hideous infamous London streets
My cheek, and made my soul a sacred place,
O my poor darling, O my little lost sheep!