The Woman at the Washtub, She works till fall of night; With soap and suds and soda Her hands are wrinkled white. Her diamonds are the sparkles The copper-fire supplies; Her opals are the bubbles That from the suds arise. The Woman at the Washtub Has lost the charm of youth; Her hair is rough and homely, Her figure is uncouth; Her temper is like thunder, With no one she agrees -- The children of the alley They cling around her knees. The Woman at the Washtub, She too had her romance; There was a time when lightly Her feet flew in the dance. Her feet were silver swallows, Her lips were flowers of fire; Then she was Bright and Early, The Blossom of Desire. 0 Woman at the Washtub, And do you ever dream Of all your days gone by in Your aureole of steam? From birth till we are dying You wash our sordid duds, 0 Woman of the Washtub! 0 Sister of the Suds! One night I saw a vision That filled my soul with dread, I saw a Woman washing The grave-clothes of the dead; The dead were all the living, And dry were lakes and meres, The Woman at the Washtub She washed them with her tears. I saw a line with banners Hung forth in proud array -- The banners of all battles From Cam to judgment Day. And they were stiff with slaughter And blood, from hem to hem, And they were red with glory, And she was washing them. 'Who comes forth to the judgment, And who will doubt my plan?' 'I come forth to the judgment And for the Race of Man. I rocked him in his cradle, I washed him for his tomb, I claim his soul and body, And I will share his doom.'
First published in The Bulletin, 29 November 1902, p19