Three Sunsets and Other Poems/Only A Woman's Hair


'Only a woman's hair'! Fling it aside!
A bubble on Life's mighty stream:
Heed it not, man, but watch the broadening tide
Bright with the western beam.
Nay! In those words there rings from other years
The echo of a long low cry,
Where a proud spirit wrestles with its tears
In loneliest agony.
And, as I touch that lock, strange visions throng
Upon my soul with dreamy grace—
Of woman's hair, the theme of poet's song
In every time and place.
A child's bright tresses, by the breezes kissed
To sweet disorder as she flies,

Veiling, beneath a cloud of golden mist,
Flushed cheek and laughing eyes—

Or fringing, like a shadow, raven-black,
The glory of a queen-like face—
Or from a gipsy's sunny brow tossed back
In wild and wanton grace—

Or crown-like on the hoary head of Age,
Whose tale of life is well-nigh told—
Or, last, in dreams I make my pilgrimage
To Bethany of old.
I see the feast—the purple and the gold—
The gathering crowd of Pharisees,
Whose scornful eyes are centred to behold
Yon woman on her knees.
The stifled sob rings strangely on mine ears,
Wrung from the depth of sin's despair:
And still she bathes the sacred feet with tears,
And wipes them with her hair.

He scorned not then the simple loving deed
Of her, the lowest and the last;
Then scorn not thou, but use with earnest heed
This relic of the past.
The eyes that loved it once no longer wake:
So lay it by with reverent care—
Touching it tenderly for sorrow's sake—
It is a woman's hair.

Feb. 17, 1862.