The Woman of Charm

(“I hate a woman who is not a mystery to herself, as well as to me.”—The Phoenix.)

If you want a receipt for that popular mystery
            Known to the world as a Woman of Charm,
Take all the conspicuous ladies of history,
            Mix them all up without doing them harm.
The beauty of Helen, the warmth of Cleopatra,
            Salome’s notorious skill in the dance,
The dusky allure of the belles of Sumatra
            The fashion and finish of ladies from France.
The youth of Susanna, beloved by an elder,
            The wit of a Chambers’ incomparable minx,
The conjugal views of the patient Griselda,
            The fire of Sappho, the calm of the Sphinx,
The eyes of La Vallière, the voice of Cordelia,
The musical gifts of the sainted Cecelia,
Trillby and Carmen and Ruth and Ophelia,
Madame de Staël and the matron Cornelia,
Iseult, Hypatia and naughty Nell Gwynn,
Una, Titania and Elinor Glyn.
            Take of these elements all that is fusible,
            Melt ‘em all down in a pipkin or crucible,
            Set ‘em to simmer and take off the scum,
            And a Woman of Charm is the residuum!
                        (Slightly adapted from W.S. Gilbert.)

This poem is in the public domain.