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The Blessedness Of Woman Post by :01ronco Category :Essays Author :Richard Le Gallienne Date :August 2011 Read :1675

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The Blessedness Of Woman

Have you ever remarked as a curious thing that, whereas every day we hear women sighing because they have not been born men, you never hear a sigh blowing in the other direction? I only know one man who had the courage to say that he would not mind exchanging into the female infantry, and it may have been affectation on his part. At any rate, he blushed deeply at the avowal, and his friends look askance at him ever since. Of course, the obvious answer of the self-satisfied male is that he is the lord of creation, that his is the better part which shall not be taken from him. Yet this does not prevent his telling his wife sometimes, when oppressed with the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, that 'it is nice to be her. Nothing to worry her all day long. No responsibility.' For in his primitive vision of female existence, his wife languidly presides for ever at an eternal five-o'clock tea. And it is not in the province of this article to turn to him the seamy side of that charming picture. Rather is it our mission to convince him of the substantial truth of his intuition. He is quite right. It _is_ 'nice to be her.' And if men had a little more common-sense in their consequential skulls, instead of striving to resist the woman's invasion of their immemorial responsibilities and worries, they would joyfully abdicate them--and skip home to Nirvana and afternoon tea.

Foolish women! To want of your own free will to put yourselves in painful harness; to take the bit of servitude between your rose-leaf lips; to fight day-long in the reeking arena of bacon merchants; to settle accounts instead of merely incurring them; to be confined in Stygian city-blocks instead of silken bedchambers; to rise with the sparrow and leave by the early morning train. What fatuity! Some day, when woman has had her way and man has ceased to have his will, she will see of the travail of her soul and be bitterly dissatisfied; for, unless man is a greater fool than he looks, she shall demand back her petticoats in vain.

For what is the lot of woman? The first superficial fact about a woman is, of course, her beauty. Secondly, as the leaves about a rose, comes her dress. To be beautiful and to wear pretty things--these are two of the obvious privileges of woman. To be a living rose, with bosom of gold and petals of lace, a rose each passer-by longs to pluck from its husband-stem, but dare not for fear of the husband-thorns. To be privileged to play Narcissus all day long with your mirror, to love yourself so much that you kiss the cold reflection, yet fear not to drown. To reveal yourself to yourself in a thousand lovely poses, and bird-like poises of the head. To kneel to yourself in adoration, to laugh and nod and beckon to yourself with your own smiles and dimples, to yearn in hopeless passion for your own loveliness. To finger silken garments, linings to the casket of your beauty, never seen of men, to draw on stiff embroidered gowns, to deck your hands with glittering jewels, and your wrists with bands of gold--and then to sail forth from your boudoir like the moon from a cloud, regally confident of public worship; to be at once poet and poem, painter and painted: does not this belong to the lot of woman?

But it was of nobler privileges than these that the candidate for womanhood of whom I have spoken was thinking. It is fit that we skim the surface before we dive into the deeps--especially so attractive a surface as woman's. He was, doubtless, thinking less of woman as a home comfort or a beauty, and much more of her as she once used to be among our far-off sires, Sibyl and Priestess. Is it but an insular fancy to suppose that Englishmen, beyond any other race, still retain the most living faith in the sanctity of womanhood? and, if so, can it be doubted that it is an inheritance from those wild child-hearted Vikings, who were first among the peoples of Europe to conceive woman as the chosen vessel of the divine? And how wittily true, by the way, how slily significant, was both the Norse and the Greek conception of the ruling destinies of man, the Norns and the Fates, as women!

To speak with authority, one should, doubtless, first sprout petticoats; and, meanwhile, one must rest content with asking the intelligent women of our acquaintance--whether man inspires them with anything like the feelings of reverential adoration, the sense of a being holy and supernal, with which woman undoubtedly inspires man. He is, of course, their god, but a god of the Greek pattern, with no little of the familiarising alloy of earth in his composition. He is strong, and swift, and splendid--but seems he holy? Is he angel as well as god? Does the dream of him rise silvery in the imagination of woman? Is he a star to lift her up to heaven with pure importunate beam? I seem to hear the nightingale-laughter of women for answer. Man neither is, nor would they have him, any of these things.

But though some men, by a fortunate admixture of woman silver in their masculine clay, may be even these, there is one sacred thing no man can ever be, a privilege by which nature would seem to have put beyond doubt the divinity of woman: a mother. It is true that it is within his reach to be a father; but what is 'paternity' compared with motherhood? The very word wears a droll face, as though accustomed to banter. Let us venture on the bull: that, though it be possible for most men to be fathers, no man can ever be a mother. Maybe a recondite intention of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was the accentuation of the fact that man's share in the sacred mystery of birth is so small and woman's so great, that the birth of a child is truly a mysterious traffic between divine powers of nature and her miraculous womb--mystic visitations of radiant forces hidden eternally from the knowledge of man.

We stand in wonder before the magical germinating properties of a clod of earth. A grass-seed and a thimbleful of soil set all the sciences at nought. But if such is the wonder of the mere spectator, how strange to be the very vessel of the mystery, to know it moving through its mystic stations within our very bodies, to feel the tender shoots of the young life striking out blade after blade, already living and wonderful, though as yet unsuspected of other eyes; to know the underground inarticulate spring, sweeter far than spring of bird and blossom, while as yet all seems barren winter in the upper air; to hear already the pathetic pleadings of the young life, and to send back soothing answer along the hidden channels of tender tremulous affinities; to lie still in the night and see through the darkness the little white soul shining softly in its birth-sleep, slowly filling with life as a moon with silver--it was a woman and not a man that God chose for this blessedness.


(The end)
Richard Le Gallienne's essay: Blessedness Of Woman

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