Featured Poem: An Obstacle by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


Already feeling frazzled at the start of the week? Take a few moments to yourself, breathe deeply, grab a cuppa and have a read of this week’s Featured Poem.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman is perhaps best known for her short stories – in particular the semi-autobiographical The Yellow Wallpaper, a popular choice to ponder in our shared reading groups – but she also wrote several poetry collections, and was undoubtedly a remarkable female writer of her time and a role model for authors and readers since.

If you’re facing any obstacles this week, take heart from this particular verse that you’re not on your own.

An Obstacle

I was climbing up a mountain-path
With many things to do,
Important business of my own,
And other people’s too,
When I ran against a Prejudice
That quite cut off the view.

My work was such as could not wait,
My path quite clearly showed,
My strength and time were limited,
I carried quite a load;
And there that hulking Prejudice
Sat all across the road.

So I spoke to him politely,
For he was huge and high,
And begged that he would move a bit
And let me travel by.
He smiled, but as for moving! —
He didn’t even try.

And then I reasoned quietly
With that colossal mule:
My time was short — no other path —
The mountain winds were cool.
I argued like a Solomon;
He sat there like a fool.

Then I flew into a passion,
and I danced and howled and swore.
I pelted and belabored him
Till I was stiff and sore;
He got as mad as I did —
But he sat there as before.

And then I begged him on my knees;
I might be kneeling still
If so I hoped to move that mass
Of obdurate ill-will —
As well invite the monument
To vacate Bunker Hill!

So I sat before him helpess,
In an ecstasy of woe —
The mountain mists were rising fast,
The sun was sinking slow —
When a sudden inspiration came,
As sudden winds do blow.

I took my hat, I took my stick,
My load I settled fair,
I approached that awful incubus
With an absent-minded air —
And I walked directly through him,
As if he wasn’t there!

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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