Madge Morris Wagner Poems >>
Out In The Cold

Out from a narrow, crowded street,
Sick'ning resort of shame and crime,
 Wearing upon her brow a curse,
Out in the darkness, lost to sight,
Out in the dreary Winter night,
 Fleeing a fate than Nessus worse.
On through the gathering mist and dew
'Till the fog-wrapped city is hid from view;
 'Till the rugged cliffs with the waters meet,
And the mingled voices from every clime
 And the hurrying tramp of reckless feet
Are drowned in the breakers' sobbing rhyme.
But farther out than this ocean beach,
Farther than Charity's hands will reach,
Farther than Pity _dares_ to come,
Is she who rushes, with white lips dumb,
To repeat the tale that too oft is told--
     Out in the cold.

From the loathesome dens whose scenes appal,
Whose tainted breath's the Simoom's blast;
 Away on the dizzying, surf-washed rock,
Pausing a moment upon the brink--
Pausing a moment perchance to think;
 Sliding the bolt in Memory's lock,
And back in its dusty, haunted hall,
Living again the vanished past--
Living her happy childhood o'er;
 Chasing the butterflies over the flowers,
Petted and loved, a girl again,
 Dreaming away the golden hours;
Living again another scene,
Flattered and toasted "beauty's queen;"
Taking again, with a merry laugh,
From gallant hands a sparkling draught.
O, angels, tell her 'tis a draught of woe!
That _ruin_ lies in its amber glow.
Over the rest let oblivion fall,
Cover it up with a funeral pall;
Turn away with a shudder and groan,
Let her live it over alone.
Few are the months, as they count, since then;
Short and joyous they else had been
That to anguished heart and maddened brain
Are long decades of woe and pain.
Over, again, on the wings of thought,
Treading the path which her ruin wrought;
Over again each step she went,
From the sunny home to the swift descent,
Where sin lies hidden 'neath a gilded pile,
Down to the haunts of the low and vile.
One more step and it all is done.
 Only a shriek the midnight breaks--
Only a splash in the waves below,
 A wider ripple the water makes.
The rock is bare by the ocean side--
A death-white face with the ebbing tide
Is floating away from the headland bold--
     Out in the cold.

A lifeless form, in the wintry dawn,
 Left on the sand by a rising swell;
A story of weakness, shame, and wrong
 Mutely the frozen features tell.
Noiseless falls on it, the tears of dew,
 Over it softly the breezes blow;
Wavelets, kissing the tangled hair,
 Murmur a requiem sad and low.
Out to the barren, bleak hillside
 Rough hands bear it with scorn and jest.
Cradled once in a mother's arms--
 Once by a mother's fond lips pressed--
Under the clods of a new-made grave;
 A rough-hewn board at the foot and head,
Where never a flower of love shall wave;
 Left with the city's nameless dead--
Left with her fate unwept, untold--
     Out in the cold.