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          Sir Edwin Arnold (1832-1904)

                    Woman's Voice

                     Her voice was ever low,
          Gentle and soft—an excellent thing in woman.
                                                    KING LEAR.

    NOT in the swaying of the summer trees,
        When evening breezes sing their vesper hymn—
    Not in the minstrel's mighty symphonies,
        Nor ripples breaking on the river's brim,
    Is earth's best music; these may leave awhile
    High thoughts in happy hearts, and carking cares beguile.

    But even as the swallow's silken wings,
        Skimming the water of the sleeping lake,
    Stir the still silver with a hundred rings—
        So doth one sound the sleeping spirit wake
    To brave the danger, and to bear the harm—
    A low and gentle voice—dear woman's chiefest charm.

    An excellent thing it is, and ever lent
        To truth and love, and meekness; they who own
    This gift, by the all-gracious Giver sent,
        Ever by quiet step and smile are known;
    By kind eyes that have wept, hearts that have sorrowed—
    By patience never tired, from their own trials borrowed.

    An excellent thing it is, when first in gladness
        A mother looks into her infant's eyes,
    Smiles to its smiles, and saddens to its sadness,
        Pales at its paleness, sorrows at its cries;
    Its food and sleep, and smiles and little joys—
    All these come ever blent with one low gentle voice.

    An excellent thing it is when life is leaving,
        Leaving with gloom and gladness, joys and cares,
    The strong heart failing, and the high soul grieving
        With strangest thoughts, and wild unwonted fears;
    Then, then a woman's low soft sympathy
    Comes like an angel's voice to teach us how to die.

    But a most excellent thing it is in youth,
        When the fond lover hears the loved one's tone,
    That fears, but longs to syllable the truth—
        How their two hearts are one, and she his own;
    It makes sweet human music—oh! the spells
    That haunt the trembling tale a bright-eyed maiden tells!


Woman's Voice appeared in Arnold's 1853 collection of poems. It can also be found in:
  • Northrop, Henry Davenport. Beautiful Gems of Thought and Sentiment. Boston, MA: The Collins-Patten Co., 1890.