In Regent Street
ONE of the nightly hundreds who pass
by Sir Lewis Morris
Wearily, hopelessly, under the gas.
But the old sad words had a strange new tone,
And the wild laugh seemed to sink to a moan.
So that turning as one constrained to look,
The strange sight stifled the voice of rebuke :
For I looked on a girl's face pure and fair,
Blue-eyed, and crowned with a glory of hair,
Such as my dead child-sister might own,
Were she not a child still, but a woman grown ;
Full of the tender graces that come
To the cherished light of an ancient home ;
Even to that touch of a high disdain,
Which is born of a name without blot or stain.
Strange ; as if one should chance to meet
An angel of light in that sordid street !
' O child, what misery brings you here,
To this place of vileness and weeping and fear?'
' I am no more than the rest,' she said,
Proudly averting her beautiful head !
Then no response, till some kinder word
Stole in unawares, and her heart was stirred.
' I was a wife but the other day,
Now I am left without hope or stay !
' Work did I ask ? What work is for you?
What work can those delicate fingers do?
' Service? But how could I bear to part
From the child with whom I had left my heart ?
' Alms ? Yes, at first ; then a pitiless No:
The State would provide me whithei to go.
' But in sordid prisons it laid my head
With the thief and the harlot ; therefore I fled.
' One thing alone had I left untried,
Then I put off the last rag of pride.'
' What came? ' You were of an honoured race,
Now you must live with your own disgrace.'
'But many will buy where few will give,
And I die every day that my child may live.'
Motherly love sunk to this ! Ah, well,
Teach they not how He went down into hell:
Only blind me in heart and brain,
Or ever I look on the like again.