Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Wolf at the Door

Published: The Cry For Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest, ed. by Upton Sinclair, John C. Winston Co., 1915.
Transcribed: for in January, 2002.

THERE'S a haunting horror near us
That nothing drives away;
Fierce lamping eyes at nightfall,
A crouching shade by day;
There's a whining at the threshold,
There's a scratching at the floor.
To work! To work! In Heaven's name!
The wolf is at the door!

The day was long, the night was short,
The bed was hard and cold;
Still weary are the little ones,
Still weary are the old.

We are weary in our cradles
From our mother's toil untold;
We are born to hoarded weariness
As some to hoarded gold.

We will not rise! We will not work!
Nothing the day can give
Is half so sweet an hour of sleep;
Better to sleep than live!
What power can stir these heavy limbs?
What hope these dull hearts swell?
What fear more cold, what pain more sharp
Than the life we know so well?...

The slow, relentless, padding step
That never goes astray--
The rustle in the underbrush--
The shadow in the way--
The straining flight--the long pursuit--
The steady gain behind--
Death-wearied man and tireless brute,
And the struggle wild and blind!

There's a hot breath at the keyhole
And a tearing as of teeth!
Well do I know the bloodshot eyes
And the dripping jaws beneath!
There's a whining at the threshold--
There's a scratching at the floor--
To work! To work! In Heaven's name!
The wolf is at the door!