To a New York Shop-Girl dressed for Sunday
To-day I saw the shop-girl go
Down gay Broadway to meet her beau.
Conspicuous, splendid, conscious, sweet,
She spread abroad and took the street.
And all that niceness would forbid,
Superb, she smiled upon and did.
Let other girls, whose happier days
Preserve the perfume of their ways,
Go modestly. The passing hour
Adds splendor to their opening flower.
But from this child too swift a doom
Must steal her prettiness and bloom,
Toil and weariness hide the grace
That pleads a moment from her face.
So blame her not if for a day
She flaunts her glories while she may.
She half perceives, half understands,
Snatching her gifts with both her hands.
The little strut beneath the skirt
That lags neglected in the dirt,
The indolent swagger down the street —
Who can condemn such happy feet!
Innocent! vulgar — that's the truth!
Yet with the darling wiles of youth!
The bright, self-conscious eyes that stare
With such hauteur, beneath such hair!
Perhaps the men will find me fair!
Charming and charmed, flippant, arrayed,
Fluttered and foolish, proud, displayed,
Infinite pathos of parade!
The bangles and the narrowed waist —
The tinsled boa — forgive the taste!
Oh, the starved nights she gave for that,
And bartered bread to buy her hat!
She flows before the reproachful sage
And begs her woman's heritage.
Dear child, with the defiant eyes,
Insolent with the half surmise
We do not quite admire, I know
How foresight frowns on this vain show!
And judgment, wearily sad, may see
No grace in such frivolity.
Yet which of us was ever bold
To worship Beauty, hungry and cold!
Scorn famine down, proudly expressed
Apostle to what things are best.
Let him who starves to buy the food
For his soul's comfort find her good,
Nor chide the frills and furbelows
That are the prettiest things she knows.
Poet and prophet in God's eyes
Make no more perfect sacrifice.
Who knows before what inner shrine
She eats with them the bread and wine?
Poor waif! One of the sacred few
That madly sought the best they knew!
Dear — let me lean my cheek to-night
Close, close to yours. Ah, that is right.
How warm and near! At last I see
One beauty shines for thee and me.
So let us love and understand —
Whose hearts are hidden in God's hand.
And we will cherish your brief Spring
And all its fragile flowering.
God loves all prettiness, and on this
Surely his angels lay their kiss.