The Helpless Mothers

Henry Lawson, 1891

      I walked with Man in his Paradise,
             That lies in the city street;
      The air is foul, and the Halls of Vice
             Are free to his children's feet.
      The children fall where the father fell,
             Where the snares of ruin are;
      The son goes down through the gates of Hell
             By the father left ajar.
      The mother works "as the woman should",
             But weeps when the day is done
      And hides her face in the hands that could,
             But may not, save her son.
      I walk with Man in his Paradise,
             And ask if his rule be just.
      Small vengeance follows the sacrifice
             Of the daughter's soul to lust!
      The mother shares in the shame, but not
             In the rule that lets it live,
      She fights unarmed, and the tears are hot
             For the shield she cannot give.
      She breaks her heart for the boy astray
             Or the girl that is defiled.
      But has not even the right to say;
             "They shall not tempt my child!"
      I say to Man in his Paradise
             That justice must now be done
      To her who's slave (says the Arab) thrice;
             To the father, husband and son.
      A poor wife hungers in rooms that are
             As bare as the barren street,
      And longs for a law that would close the bar
             To her husband's wavering feet.
      "'Tis I who suffer for all," she sobs,
             "O why is the landlord free
      To thrive on my hushand's vice, that robs
             My little ones and me?"
      The streets are filled with the snares that lurk
             In the wayward children's path.
      Yet people say that a woman's work
             Is still by the homely hearth.
      But the stagnant air of the world is srirred
             By the voice despised so long:
      The woman's voice in the land is heard, —
             The words of a strange new song.
      We'll know the worth of a purer youth
             When the women rule with men,
      For love virtue and peace and truth
             Shall save the world again.