(Mark Twain's response to the toast)
I have in mind a poem which is familiar to you all, familiar to everybody. And what an inspiration that was (and how instantly the present toast recalls the verses to all our minds) when the most noble, the most gracious, the purest and sweetest of all poets, says: "Woman! 0 Woman!-er-er Worn-"
However, you remember the lines; and you remember how feelingly, how daintily, how almost imperceptibly the verses raise up before you, feature by feature, the ideal of a true and perfect woman; and how, as you contemplate the finished marvel, your homage grows into worship of the intellect that could create so fair a thing out of mere breath, mere words. And you I call to mind now, as I speak, how the poet, with stern fidelity to the history of all humanity, delivers this beautiful child of his heart and his brain over to the trials and sorrows that must come to all, sooner or later, that abide in the earth, and how the pathetic story culminates in that apostrophe-so wild, so regretful, so full of mournful retrospection. The lines run thus: "Alas!-alas!-a-alas!
-and so On. I do not remember the rest; but, taken altogether, it seems to me that poem is the noblest tribute to woman that human genius has ever brought forth. I feel that if I were to talk hours, I could not do my great theme completer or more graceful justice than I have now done in simply quoting the poet's matchless words.
The phases of the womanly nature are infinite in their variety. Take any type of woman, and you shall find in it something to respect, something to admire, something to love. And you shall find the whole joining you, heart and hand. Who was more patriotic than Joan of Arc? Who was braver? Who has given us a grander instance of self-sacrificing devotion? Ah! you remember, you remember well, what a throb of pain, what a great tidal wave of grief swept over us all when Joan of Arc fell at Waterloo. Who does not sorrow for the loss of Sappho, the sweet singer of Israel? Who among us does not miss the gentle piety of Lucretia Borgia? Who can join in the heartless libel that says woman is extravagant in dress, when he can look back and call to mind our simple and lowly mother Eve arrayed in her modification of the Highland costume? Sir, women have been soldiers, women have been painters, women have been poets. So long as language lives, the name of Cleopatra wi11live. And, not because she conquered George III, but because she wrote those divine lines:
"Let dogs delight to bark and bite,
For God hath made them so."