She was taught desire in the street,
Not at the angels' feet.
By the good no word was said
Of the worth of the bridal bed.
The secret was learned from the vile,
Not from her mother's smile.
Home spoke not. And the girl
Was caught in the public whirl.
Do you say "She gave consent:
Life drunk, she was content
With beasts that her fire could please?"
But she did not choose disease
Of mind and nerves and breath.
She was trapped to a slow, foul death.
The door was watched so well,
That the steep dark stair to hell
Was the only escaping way...
"She gave consent," you say?

Some think she was meek and good,
Only lost in the wood
Of youth, and deceived in man
When the hunger of sex began
That ties the husband and wife
To the end in a strong fond life.
Her captor, by chance was one
Of those whose passion was done,
A cold fierce worm of the sea
Enslaving for you and me.
The wages the poor must take
Have forced them to serve this snake.
Yea, half-paid girls must go
For bread to his pit below.
What hangman shall wait his host
Of butchers from coast to coast,
New York to the Golden Gate —
The merger of death and fate,
Lust-kings with a careful plan
Clean-cut, American?

In liberty's name we cry
For these women about to die.

O mothers who failed to tell
The mazes of heaven and hell,
Who failed to advise, implore
Your daughters at Love's strange door,
What will you do this day?
Your dear ones are hidden away,
As good as chained to the bed,
Hid like the mad, or the dead: —
The glories of endless years
Drowned in their harlot-tears:
The children they hoped to bear,
Grandchildren strong and fair,
The life for ages to be,
Cut off like a blasted tree,
Murdered in filth in a day,
Somehow, by the merchant gay!

In liberty's name we cry
For these women about to die.

What shall be said of a state
Where traps for the white brides wait?
Of sellers of drink who play
The game for the extra pay?
Of statesmen in league with all
Who hope for the girl-child's fall?
Of banks where hell's money is paid
And Pharisees all afraid
Of pandars that help them sin?
When will our wrath begin?

More verses by Vachel Lindsay