Why Are You Weeping, Sister?

Why are you weeping, Sister?
Why are you sitting alone?

I’m bent and gray
And I’ve lost the way!
All my tomorrows were yesterday!
I traded them off for a wanton’s pay.
I bartered my graces for silks and laces
My heart I sold for a pot of gold–
Now I’m old.

Why did you do it, Sister,
Why did you sell your soul?

I was foolish and fair and my form was rare!
I longed for life’s baubles and did not care!
When we know not the price to be paid, we dare.
I listened when Vanity lied to me
And I ate the fruit of the Bitter Tree–
Now I’m old.

Why are you lonely, Sister?
Where have your friends all gone?

Friends I have none, for I went the road
Where women must harvest what men have sowed
And they never come back when the field is mowed.
They gave the lee of the cup to me
But I was blind and would not see–
Now I’m old.

Where are your lovers, Sister,
Where are your lovers now?

My lovers were many but all have run
I betrayed and deceived them every one
And they lived to learn what I had done.
A poisoned draught from my lips they quaffed
And I who knew it was poisoned, laughed–
Now I’m old.

Will they not help you, Sister,
In the name of your common sin?

There is no debt, for my lovers bought.
They paid my price for the things I brought.
I made the terms so they owe me naught.
I have no hold for ‘t was I who sold.
One offered his heart, but mine was cold–
Now I’m old.

Where is that lover, Sister?
He will come when he knows your need.

I broke his hope and I stained his pride.
I dragged him down in the undertide.
Alone and forsaken by me he died.
The blood that he shed is on my head
For all the while I knew that he bled–
Now I’m old.

Is there no mercy, Sister,
For the wanton whose course is spent?

When a woman is lovely the world will fawn.
But now when her beauty and grace are gone,
When her face is seamed and her limbs are drawn.
I’ve had my day and I’ve had my play.
In my winter of loneliness I must pay–
Now I’m old.

What of the morrow, Sister?
How shall the morrow be?

I must feed to the end upon remorse.
I must falter alone in my self-made course.
I must stagger alone with my self-made cross.
For I bartered my graces for silks and laces
My heart I sold for a pot of gold–
Now I’m old.

By Herbert Kaufman in Fighting the Traffic in Young Girls, or, War on the White Slave Trade, 1911

Featured image: Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. (1845?). Scène des fleurs Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/64ffb990-dc7e-0132-0b6b-58d385a7bbd0

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