Poem introduction

These new recordings have been commissioned by Pendle Radicals, in partnership with the Finding Ethel project, and made possible by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Pendle Radicals is a part of the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership.

The Universal Life

Wide open stands the door of my soul
And the world’s men and women troop through;
Some weeping , some laughing, some dumb with despair,
Wearing roses, and fennel, and rue;
And the beat of their feet makes a martial refrain –
Come in, I am waiting for you.
 

Wide open stands the door of my soul,
And the victor and vanquished tramp in;
Come the makers of music immortal and sweet,
Come the stirrers of conflict and din;
And their voices sound loud as the roar of the sea –
O voices, I bid you come in.

Wide open stands the door of my soul,
And the noble, the brave, the soul-freed
Come wearing the palm that they won with their pain,
Come the puny souls fettered with greed;
And I greet with my best love the soul of the serf,
Which the valiant and pure cannot need.
 

Wide open stands the door of my soul,
And the lover and loved one stand there,
I am glad that the lover is tender and true,
That the loved one is blooming and fair;
But the best place I keep for the soul that waits lone,
As one tree in the forest stands here.
 

Wide open stands the door of my soul,
Comes the mother, soft hushing her child;
Babbling stories unnumbered of baby tricks done,
Of the times it has whimpered or smiled –
But I lock my arms close round the great mother-soul,
Empty-bosomed, with eyes yearning wild.

I cannot shut the door of my soul;
Through the day and the night they pour through.
O women and men, I can ne’er sit alone,
For my fate is all mixed up with you;
I must laugh to the end with the young and the gay –
I must sigh with the wearers of rue.


from Songs of a Factory Girl (London: Headley Brothers, 1911), © Ethel Carnie Holdsworth 1911, used by permission of the copyright holder Helen Brown.

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Recordings

Books by Ethel Carnie Holdsworth