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Ella Wheeler Wilcox

(5 November 1850 - 30 October 1919 / Johnstown Center / Rock County / Wisconsin)

Christ Crucified


Now ere I slept, my prayer had been that I might see my way
To do the will of Christ, our Lord and Master, day by day;
And with this prayer upon my lips, I knew not that I dreamed,
But suddenly the world of night a pandemonium seemed.
From forest, and from slaughter house, from bull ring, and from stall,
There rose an anguished cry of pain, a loud, appealing call;
As man – the dumb beast’s next of kin – with gun, and whip, and knife,
Went pleasure-seeking through the earth, blood-bent on taking life.
From trap, and cage, and house, and zoo, and street, that awful strain
Of tortured creatures rose and swelled the orchestra of pain.
And then methought the gentle Christ appeared to me and spoke:
‘I called you, but ye answered not’ – and in my fear I woke.

Then next I heard the roar of mills; and moving through the noise,
Like phantoms in an underworld, were little girls and boys.
Their backs were bent, their brows were pale, their eyes were sad and old;
But by the labour of their hands greed added gold to gold.
Again the Presence and the Voice: ‘Behold the crimes I see,
As ye have done it unto these, so have ye done to me.’

Again I slept. I seemed to climb a hard, ascending track;
And just behind me laboured one whose patient face was black.
I pitied him; but hour by hour he gained upon the path;
He stood beside me, stood upright – and then I turned in wrath.
‘Go back! ’ I cried. ‘What right have you to walk beside me here?
For you are black, and I am white.’ I paused struck dumb with fear.
For lo! the black man was not there, but Christ stood in his place;
And oh! the pain, the pain, the pain that looked from his dear face.

Now when I woke, the air was rife with that sweet, rhythmic din
Which tells the world that Christ has come to save mankind from sin.
And through the open door of church and temple passed a throng,
To worship Him, with bended knee with sermon, and with song.
But over all I heard the cry of hunted, mangled things;
Those creatures which are part of God, though they have hoofs and wings.

I saw the mill, the mine, and shop, the little slaves of greed;
I heard the strife of race with race, all sprung from one God-seed.
And then I bowed my head in shame, and in contrition cried –
‘Lo, after nineteen hundred years, Christ still is crucified.’

Submitted: Saturday, May 31, 2003

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