On going to do nothing for ever and ever: ‘On a Tired Housewife’ has become a popular comic poem, but its origins appear to have been in tragedy: the unknown charwoman who wrote it in 1905 effectively penned it as her suicide note, citing extreme fatigue as her reason for ending it all. Writing in a letter to Lady Robert Cecil about the poem, Virginia Woolf said that the jury at the coroner’s inquest found the charwoman to have been mad, ‘which proves once more what it is to be a poet in these days’. If the title of this poem is unfamiliar to you, the last line may ring some bells: shouldering the emotional and domestic labour may leave many women longing for the relative comfort of oblivion.
On a Tired Housewife
Here lies a poor woman who was always tired,
She lived in a house where help wasn’t hired:
Her last words on earth were: ‘Dear friends, I am going
To where there’s no cooking, or washing, or sewing,
For everything there is exact to my wishes,
For where they don’t eat there’s no washing of dishes.
I’ll be where loud anthems will always be ringing,
But having no voice I’ll be quit of the singing.
Don’t mourn for me now, don’t mourn for me never,
I am going to do nothing for ever and ever.’
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