Ella Wheeler Wilcox (5 November 1850 - 30 October 1919 / Johnstown Center / Rock County / Wisconsin)
One Woman's Memory
Here is a lock of his soft, dark hair,
And here are the letters he wrote to me.
And the ring of gold that I used to wear
Is here in the casket-see!
I put them away ten years ago.
'What is it,' you ask, 'did I love in vain?
Was my lover unfaithful?' No, oh! no.
My heart was spared that pain.
He died in the bloom of his manhood's youth.
You say I have his memory, friend;
That he is not dead, but lives, in truth;
Wait till you hear the end.
Death in itself is a little thing,
It is only passing from here to there;
But a death of shame has a bitter sting
That makes it hard to bear.
He was good and true as a man could be,
Noble and pure, when I loved him first;
But all of his race were cursed, you see,
With a fiery, craving thirst.
And the tempter, morning and noon and night,
Was placed in his path by a mother's hand.
The woe of wine, and its blasting blight,
She did not understand.
I did not know, or I did not think,
Of the awful shame that was hidden there
When I saw him lift the glass, and drink
To the health of his 'lady fair.'
I knew and I thought when it was too late.
I reached out my hands, but I could not save.
He hurried on to his fearful fate,
And sank in a drunkard's grave.
He was good, and kind, and true, but weak
When the ruby wine danced o'er the brim.
And woe is me that I did not speak
One warning word to him!
If I had but told him to cast away,
To touch not and taste not the mocker, wine,
I need not have felt as I feel to-day
That blood stains these hands of mine.
O ye who have friends on the awful brink
That hangs o'er the river of ruin and death!
When you see them lift the glass, oh! think
Of the jaggèd rocks beneath.
Reach out a hand ere the deed is done.
Send forth a cry in the dear Lord's name.
Oh! stand not aloof while a precious one
Speeds down to a grave of shame.
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