Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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

Master And Servant Poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox


The devil to Bacchus said, one day,
In a scowling, growling, petulant way,
As he came from earth to hell:
'There's a soul above that I cannot move,
And I've struggled long and well;
He's a manly youth, with an eye of truth,
A fellow of matchless grace;
And he looks me through with his eye of blue
Till I cower before his face.
The very power and strength of heaven
To this young, fearless soul were given;
For I've never an art that can reach his heart,
And I cannot snare his feet:
I have wasted days in devising ways,
And now must cry 'Defeat!''
And the devil scowled, and grumbled, and growled,
And beat about with his cane,
Till the demons fled over the burning waste
Out of his reach in hurrying haste,
Howling aloud in pain.


Bacchus laughed as he stooped and quaffed
A burning bumper of wine:
'Why, master,' said he, 'you soon shall see
The fellow down at your shrine;
Long ago, if you'd let me know,
We'd had him in our ranks.
And now, adieu! while I work for you;
Don't hurry about your thanks!
I'm going above; you know they love
The sight of my glowing face.
They call me a god! ho! ho! how odd!
With this for my dwelling-place.'
A youth with a dower of manly grace,
A maid with the morning in her face;
And she filleth a goblet full to the brim,
And giveth the bubbling draught to him.
'Drink!' she says, and the goblet sways
And shimmers under his eyes.
He tries to speak, but the tongue is weak,
And the words sink into sighs;
For the maid is fair, and she holds him there
With a spell that he cannot flee:
'Drink!' and she sips with her ruby lips-
'Drink but a draught with me.'
And the lovers quaffed, while the demons laughed,
And Bacchus laughed loud and long.
'Ho! ho!' cried he, 'what a victory!
Ho! ho! for the soul so strong
That my master was beat, and cried 'Defeat!'
But wine is a tempter, and love is sweet.'


Bacchus went back o'er the fiery track
Into the land below;
And the devil said, 'Well, what have you to tell
Of the thing I want to know?'
And Bacchus said he, 'Why, look and see!
There is your strong, brave youth
Reeling along, with a drunken song
Staining those lips of truth.
My work is done! You must go on
And finish the job I started;
And as long as I stay in your service, pray,
Don't ever be down-hearted.'

Submitted: Friday, April 2, 2010

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