Only a Woman’s Hair

Author: Lewis Carroll  | Date: 1862


["After the death of Dean Swift, there was found among his papers a small packet containing a single lock of hair and inscribed with the above words."]

"ONLY a woman’s hair!" Fling it aside!

A bubble on Life’s mighty stream:

Heed it not, man, but watch the broadening tide

Bright with the western beam.

Nay! In those words there rings from other years

The echo of a long low cry,

Where a proud spirit wrestles with its tears

In loneliest agony.

And, as I touch that lock, strange visions throng

Upon my soul with dreamy grace-

Of woman’s hair, the theme of poet’s song

In every time and place.

A child’s bright tresses, by the breezes kissed

To sweet disorder as she flies,

Veiling, beneath a cloud of golden mist,

Flushed cheek and laughing eyes-

Or fringing, like a shadow, raven-black,

The glory of a queen-like face-

Or from a gipsy’s sunny brow tossed back

In wild and wanton grace-

Or crown-like on the hoary head of Age,

Whose tale of life is well-nigh told-

Or, last, in dreams I make my pilgrimage

To Bethany of old.

I see the feast- the purple and the gold;

The gathering crowd of Pharisees,

Whose scornful eyes are centred to behold

Yon woman on her knees.

The stifled sob rings strangely on mine ears,

Wrung from the depth of sin’s despair:

And still she bathes the sacred feet with tears,

And wipes them with her hair.

He scorned not then the simple loving deed

Of her, the lowest and the last;

Then scorn not thou, but use with earnest heed

This relic of the past.

The eyes that loved it once no longer wake:

So lay it by with reverent care-

Touching it tenderly for sorrow’s sake-

It is a woman’s hair.

Feb. 17, 1862.

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Chicago: Lewis Carroll, Only a Woman’s Hair Original Sources, accessed May 19, 2024,

MLA: Carroll, Lewis. Only a Woman’s Hair, Original Sources. 19 May. 2024.

Harvard: Carroll, L, Only a Woman’s Hair. Original Sources, retrieved 19 May 2024, from