Catching up on National Poetry Month

Jenny Wren’s recent post reminded me that April is National Poetry Month. On the long list of responsibilities about which Culture Shock has been remiss, the failure to honor poesy this month ranks near the top. Let’s see if we can remedy this situation just a bit.

Someone somewhere in the recent sometime (and probably on Twitter) led me to the following bit of rhyme by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. From my extensive research (i.e., Wikipedia), I learned that the poet was a feminist firebrand around the start of the 20th century, writing such radical ideas:

It is not that women are really smaller-minded, weaker-minded, more timid and vacillating, but that whosoever, man or woman, lives always in a small, dark place, is always guarded, protected, directed and restrained, will become inevitably narrowed and weakened by it."

Her poem “A Conservative” is timely in this season of teabaggery. It's more fun if you read it out loud with feeling.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935)

The garden beds I wandered by
One bright and cheerful morn,
When I found a new-fledged butterfly,
A-sitting on a thorn,
A black and crimson butterfly,
All doleful and forlorn.

I thought that life could have no sting
To infant butterflies,
So I gazed on this unhappy thing
With wonder and surprise,
While sadly with his waving wing
He wiped his weeping eyes.

Said I, "What can the matter be?
Why weepest thou so sore?
With garden fair and sunlight free
And flowers in goodly store:" -
But he only turned away from me
And burst into a roar.

Cried he, "My legs are thin and few
Where once I had a swarm!
Soft fuzzy fur - a joy to view -
Once kept my body warm,
Before these flapping wing-things grew,
To hamper and deform!"

At that outrageous bug I shot
The fury of mine eye;
Said I, in scorn all burning hot,
In rage and anger high,
"You ignominious idiot!
Those wings are made to fly!

"I do not want to fly," said he,
"I only want to squirm!"
And he drooped his wings dejectedly,
But still his voice was firm:
"I do not want to be a fly!
I want to be a worm!"

O yesterday of unknown lack!
To-day of unknown bliss!
I left my fool in red and black,
The last I saw was this, -
The creature madly climbing back
Into his chrysalis.

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