Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Wolf at the Door

 - Charlotte Perkins Gilman

THERE'S a haunting horror near us
That nothing drives away;
Fierce lamping eyes at nightfall,
A crouching shade by day;
There's a whining at the threshold,
There's a scratching at the floor.
To work! To work! In Heaven's name!
The wolf is at the door!
The day was long, the night was short,
The bed was hard and cold;
Still weary are the little ones,
Still weary are the old.
We are weary in our cradles
From our mother's toil untold;
We are born to hoarded weariness
As some to hoarded gold.
We will not rise! We will not work!
Nothing the day can give
Is half so sweet an hour of sleep;
Better to sleep than live!
What power can stir these heavy limbs?
What hope these dull hearts swell?
What fear more cold, what pain more sharp
Than the life we know so well?...
The slow, relentless, padding step
That never goes astray--
close up of wolf eyes looking at you
The rustle in the underbrush--
The shadow in the way--
The straining flight--the long pursuit--
The steady gain behind--
Death-wearied man and tireless brute,
And the struggle wild and blind!
There's a hot breath at the keyhole
And a tearing as of teeth!
Well do I know the bloodshot eyes
And the dripping jaws beneath!
There's a whining at the threshold--
There's a scratching at the floor--
To work! To work! In Heaven's name!
The wolf is at the door! 

from: The Cry For Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest. Copyright 1915.
Picture source.


  1. Didn't she also write The Yellow Wallpaper? Yikes.

    1. Yes. Yes, she did. And I understand it (The Yellow Wallpaper) was somewhat autobiographical. She gave it to her own doctor, who had cared for her during a difficult recovery from childbirth, to read.

      She strikes me as a writer who felt deeply and excelled at translating those feelings into print.

  2. I didn't know that, about Wallpaper being somewhat autobiographical. Ugh. How brave of her.

  3. I've read the Yellow Wallpaper, though I think I will have to go reread it again after seeing her she wrote it while in recovery.

    I quite like this poem. I can hear the wolf slavering and sniffing, can't you? I also like how the writer values sleep - that precious extra half hour - more than almost anything. Is there anyone who doesn't remember the joy of lying in bed and not having to get up right away?