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.