In This Our World
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Charlotte Perkins Gilman, also known by her first married name Charlotte Perkins Stetson, was an American humanist, novelist, writer, lecturer, advocate for social reform, and eugenicist. She was a utopian feminist and served as a role model for future generations of feminists because of her unorthodox concepts and lifestyle. In This Our World is an 1893 collection of poems.

In This Our World

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

In This Our World
In This Our World


The World


Lord, I am born!
I have built me a body
Whose ways are all open,
Whose currents run free,
From the life that is thine
Flowing ever within me,
To the life that is mine
Flowing outward through me.

I am clothed, and my raiment
Fits smooth to the spirit,
The soul moves unhindered,
The body is free;
And the thought that my body
Falls short of expressing,
In texture and color
Unfoldeth on me.

I am housed, O my Father!
My body is sheltered,
My spirit has room
’Twixt the whole world and me,
I am guarded with beauty and strength,
And within it
Is room for still union,
And birth floweth free.

And the union and birth
Of the house, ever growing,
Have built me a city —
Have born me a state —
Where I live manifold,
Many-voiced, many-hearted,
Never dead, never weary,
And oh! never parted!
The life of The Human,
So subtle — so great!

Lord, I am born!
From inmost to outmost
The ways are all open,
The currents run free,
From thy voice in my soul
To my joy in the people —
I thank thee, O God,
For this body thou gavest,
Which enfoldeth the earth —
Is enfolded by thee!

Nature’s Answer


A man would build a house, and found a place
As fair as any on the earth’s fair face:

Soft hills, dark woods, smooth meadows richly green,
And cool tree-shaded lakes the hills between.

He built his house within this pleasant land,
A stately white-porched house, long years to stand;

But, rising from his paradise so fair,
Came fever in the night and killed him there.

“O lovely land!” he cried, “how could I know
That death was lurking under this fair show?”

And answered Nature, merciful and stern,
“I teach by killing; let the others learn!”


A man would do great work, good work and true;
He gave all things he had, all things he knew;

He worked for all the world; his one desire
To make the people happier, better, higher;

Used his best wisdom, used his utmost strength;
And, dying in the struggle, found at length,

The giant evils he had fought the same,
And that the world he loved scarce knew his name.

“Has all my work been wrong? I meant so well!
I loved so much!” he cried. “How could I tell?”

And answered Nature, merciful and stern,
“I teach by killing; let the others learn.”


A maid was asked in marriage. Wise as fair,
She gave her answer with deep thought and prayer,

Expecting, in the holy name of wife,
Great work, great pain, and greater joy, in life.

She found such work as brainless slaves might do,
By day and night, long labor, never through;

Such pain — no language can her pain reveal;
It had no limit but her power to feel;

Such joy — life left in her sad soul’s employ
Neither the hope nor memory of joy.

Helpless, she died, with one despairing cry, —
“I thought it good; how could I tell the lie?”

And answered Nature, merciful and stern,
“I teach by killing; let the others learn.”

The Commonplace

Life is so weary commonplace! Too fair
Were those young visions of the poet and seer.
Nothing exciting ever happens here.
Just eat and drink, and dress and chat;
Life is so tedious, slow, and flat,
And every day alike in everywhere!

Birth comes. Birth —
The breathing re-creation of the earth!
All earth, all sky, all God, life’s deep sweet whole,
Newborn again to each new soul!
“Oh, are you? What a shame! Too bad, my dear!
How well you stand it, too! It’s very queer
The dreadful trials women have to carry;
But you can’t always help it when you marry.
Oh, what a sweet layette! What lovely socks!
What an exquisite puff and powder box!
Who is your doctor? Yes, his skill’s immense —
But it’s a dreadful danger and expense!”

Love comes. Love —
And the world widens at the touch thereof;
Deepens and lightens till the answer true
To all life’s questions seems to glimmer through.
“Engaged? I knew it must be! What a ring!
Worth how much? Well, you are a lucky thing!
But how was Jack disposed of?” “Jack? Oh, he
Was just as glad as I was to be free.
You might as well ask after George and Joe
And all the fellows that I used to know!
I don’t inquire for his past Kate and Carry —
Every one’s pleased. It’s time, you know, to marry.”

Life comes. Life —
Bearing within it wisdom, work, and strife.
To do, to strive, to know, and, with the knowing,
To find life’s widest purpose in our growing.
“How are you, Jim? Pleasant weather to-day!
How’s business?” “Well, it doesn’t come my way.”
“Good-morning, Mrs. Smith! I hope you’re well!
Tell me the news!” “The news? There’s none to tell.
The cook has left; the baby’s got a tooth;
John has gone fishing to renew his youth.
House-cleaning’s due — or else we’ll have to move!
How sweet you are in that! Good-bye, my love!”

Death comes. Death —
Love cries to love, and no man answereth.
Death the beginning, Death the endless end,
Life’s proof and first condition, Birth’s best friend.
“Yes, it’s a dreadful loss! No coming back!
Never again! How do I look in black?
And then he suffered so! Oh, yes, we all
Are well provided for. You’re kind to call,
And Mrs. Green has lost her baby too!
Dear me! How sad! And yet what could they do?
With such a hard time as they have, you know, —
No doubt ’t was better for the child to go!”

Life is so dreary commonplace. We bear
One dull yoke, in the country or the town.
We’re born, grow up, marry, and settle down.
I used to think — but then a man must live!
The Fates dole out the weary years they give,
And every day alike in everywhere.

A Sestina

We are the smiling comfortable homes
With happy families enthroned therein,
Where baby souls are brought to meet the world,
Where women end their duties and desires,
For which men labor as the goal of life,
That people worship now instead of God.

Do we not teach the child to worship God? —
Whose soul’s young range is bounded by the homes
Of those he loves, and where he learns that life
Is all constrained to serve the wants therein,
Domestic needs and personal desires, —
These are the early limits of his world.

And are we not the woman’s perfect world,
Prescribed by nature and ordained of God,
Beyond which she can have no right desires,
No need for service other than in homes?
For doth she not bring up her young therein?
And is not rearing young the end of life?

And man? What other need hath he in life
Than to go forth and labor in the world,
And struggle sore with other men therein?
Not to serve other men, nor yet his God,
But to maintain these comfortable homes, —
The end of all a normal man’s desires.

Shall not the soul’s most measureless desires
Learn that the very flower and fruit of life
Lies all attained in comfortable homes,
With which life’s purpose is to dot the world
And consummate the utmost will of God,
By sitting down to eat and drink therein.

Yea, in the processes that work therein —
Fulfilment of our natural desires —
Surely man finds the proof that mighty God
For to maintain and reproduce his life
Created him and set him in the world;
And this high end is best attained in homes.

Are we not homes? And is not all therein?
Wring dry the world to meet our wide desires!
We crown all life! We are the aim of God!

A Common Inference

A night: mysterious, tender, quiet, deep;
Heavy with flowers; full of life asleep;
Thrilling with insect voices; thick with stars;
No cloud between the dewdrops and red Mars;
The small earth whirling softly on her way,
The moonbeams and the waterfalls at play;
A million million worlds that move in peace,
A million mighty laws that never cease;
And one small ant-heap, hidden by small weeds,
Rich with eggs, slaves, and store of millet seeds.
They sleep beneath the sod
And trust in God.

A day: all glorious, royal, blazing bright;
Heavy with flowers; full of life and light;
Great fields of corn and sunshine; courteous trees;
Snow-sainted mountains; earth-embracing seas;
Wide golden deserts; slender silver streams;
Clear rainbows where the tossing fountain gleams;
And everywhere, in happiness and peace,
A million forms of life that never cease;
And one small ant-heap, crushed by passing tread,
Hath scarce enough alive to mourn the dead!
They shriek beneath the sod,
“There is no God!”

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