Poem: In Duty Bound (Charlotte Perkins Gilman)

("In Duty Bound" is often noted as Charlotte Perkins Gilman's first published work. However, there is evidence that she published the poem "To D.G." in 1880, in the 20 May 1880, issue of the New England Journal of Education.)

In duty bound, a life hemmed in,
----Whichever way the spirit turns to look;
No chance of breaking out, except by sin,
----Not even room to shirk--
----Simply to live, and work.

An obligation preimposed, unsought,
----Yet binding with the force of natural law;
The pressure of antagonistic thought;
----Aching within, each hour,
----A sense of wasting power.

A house with roof so darkly low
----The heavy rafters shut the sunlight out;
One cannot stand erect without a blow;
----Until the soul inside
----Cries for a grave--more wide.

A consciousness that if this thing endure,
----The common joys of life will dull the pain;
The high ideals of the grand and pure
----Die, as of course they must
----Of long disuse and rust.

That is the worst. It takes supernal strength
----To hold the attitude that brings the pain;
And there are few indeed but stoop at length
----To something less than best,
----To find, in stooping, rest.


Original publication: Buffalo Christian Advocate, 12 January 1884.

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