The Forerunner (1:1): "How Doth The Hat" (Poem, Charlotte Perkins Gilman)

The Forerunner: 1:1 (November 1909): Table of Contents

How doth the hat loom large upon her head!
Furred like a busby; plumed as hearses are;
Armed with eye-spearing quills; bewebbed and hung
With lacy, silky, downy draperies;
With spread, wide-waggling feathers fronded high
In bosky thickets of Cimmerian gloom.

How doth the hat with colors dare the eye!
Vivid and varied as are paroquets;
Dove-dull; one mass of white; all solid red;
Black with the blackness of a mourning world--
Compounded type of "Chaos and Old Night"!

How doth the hat expand: wax wide, and swell!
Such is its size that none can predicate
Or hair, or head, or shoulders of the frame
Below thIs bulk, this beauty-burying bulk;
Trespassing rude on all who walk beside,
Brutally blinding all who sit behind.

How doth the hat's mere mass more monstrous grow
Into a riot of repugnant shapes!
Shapes ignominious, extreme, bizarre,
Bulbous, distorted, unsymmetrical--
Of no relation to the human head--
To beauty, comfort, dignity or grace.

Shape of a dishpan! Of a pail! A tub!
Of an inverted wastebasket wherein
The head finds lodgment most appropriate!
Shape of a wide-spread wilted griddlecake!
Shape of the body of an octopus
Set sideways on a fireman's misplaced brim!

How doth the hat show callous cruelty
In decoration costing countless deaths;
Carrying corpses for its ornaments;
Wreath of dead humming-birds, dismembered gulls,
The mother heron's breastknot, stiffened wings;
Torn fragments of a world of wasted life.

How doth the hat effect the minds of men?
Patient bill-payers, chivalrously dumb!
What does it indicate of woman's growth;
Her sense of beauty, her intelligence,
Her thought for others measured with herself,
Her place and grade in human life to-day?


Originally published in Forerunner: 1:1 (November 1909).

Etext from Project Gutenberg.

This public domain text has been presented as found (with some minor format changes); this website and its owners are not responsible for errors, substantive and/or minor.

The Forerunner: 1:1 (November 1909): Table of Contents

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