Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  From “Dorothy: a Country Story.” III. Dorothy’s Room

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Arthur Joseph Munby b. 1828

From “Dorothy: a Country Story.” III. Dorothy’s Room

’T WAS but a poor little room: a farm-servant’s loft in a garret;

One small window and door; never a chimney at all;

One little stool by the bed, and a remnant of cast-away carpet;

But on the floor, by the wall, carefully dusted and bright,

Stood the green-painted box, our Dorothy’s closet and wardrobe,

Holding her treasures, her all—all that she own’d in the world!

Linen and hosen were there, coarse linen and home-knitted hosen;

Handkerchiefs bought at the fair, aprons and smocks not a few;

Kirtles for warmth when afield, and frocks for winter and summer,

Blue-spotted, lilac, gray; cotton and woolen and serge;

All her simple attire, save the clothes she felt most like herself in—

Rough, coarse workaday clothes, fit for a laborer’s wear.

There was her Sunday array—the boots, and the shawl, and the bonnet,

Solemnly folded apart, not to be lightly assumed;

There was her jewelry, too: ’t was a brooch (she had worn it this evening)

Made of cairngorm stone—really too splendid for her!

Which on a Martlemas Day Mr. Robert had bought for a fairing:

Little she thought, just then, how she would value it now!

As for her sewing gear, her housewife, her big brass thimble,

Knitting and suchlike work, such as her fingers could do,

That was away downstairs, in a dresser-drawer in the kitchen,

Ready for use of a night, when she was tidied and clean.

Item, up there in the chest were her books: “The Dairyman’s Daughter;”

Ballads; “The Olney Hymns;” Bible and Prayer-book, of course:

That was her library; these were the limits of Dorothy’s reading;

Wholesome, but scanty indeed: was it then all that she knew?

Nay, for like other good girls, she had profited much by her schooling

Under the mighty three—Nature, and Labor, and Life:

Mightier they than books; if books could have only come after,

Thoughts of instructed minds filtering down into hers.

That was impossible now; what she had been, she was, and she would be;

Only a farm-serving lass—only a peasant, I fear!

Well—on that green-lidded box, her name was painted in yellow;

Dorothy Crump were the words. Crump? What a horrible name!

Yes, but they gave it to her, because (like the box) ’t was her mother’s;

Ready to hand—though of course she had no joy in the name:

She had no kin—and indeed, she never had needed a surname;

Never had used one at all, never had made one her own:

“Dolly” she was to herself, and to every one else she was “Dolly”;

Nothing but “Dolly”; and so, that was enough for a name.

Thus then, her great, green box, her one undoubted possession,

Stood where it was; like her, “never went nowhere” at all;

Waited, perhaps, as of old, some beautiful Florentine bride-chest,

Till, in the fulness of time, He, the Beloved, appears.—

Was there naught else in her room? nothing handy for washing or dressing?

Yes; on a plain deal stand, basin, and ewer, and dish:

All of them empty, unused; for the sink was the place of her toilet;

Save on a Sunday—and then, she too could dress at her ease;

Then, by the little sidewall of the diamonded dormer-window

She at a sixpenny glass brush’d out her bonny bright hair.

Ah, what a poor little room! Would you like to sleep in it, ladies?

Innocence sleeps there unharm’d; Honor, and Beauty, and Peace—

Love, too, has come; and with these, even dungeons were easily cheerful;

But, for our Dorothy’s room, it is no dungeon at all.

No! through the latticed panes of the diamonded dormer-window

Dorothy looks on a world free and familiar and fair:

Looks on the fair farm-yard, where the poultry and cattle she lives with

Bellow and cackle and low—music delightful to her;

Looks on the fragrant fields, with cloud-shadows flying above them,

Singing of birds in the air, woodlands and waters around.

She in those fragrant meads has wrought, every year of her girlhood;

Over those purple lands she, too, has follow’d the plough;

And, like a heifer afield, or a lamb that is yean’d in the meadows,

She, to herself and to us, seems like a part of it all.