Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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

Origin Of The Liquor Dealer - Poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The devil in hell gave a festival,
And he called his imps from their wine-
Called them up from the ruddy cup,
And marshalled them into line.
And each to his place sprang the imps apace,
And they stood there, side by side.
'Now, listen well, O ye hosts of hell!
And mark me,' the devil cried.
'There is work to do for all of you,
Held for this night in store.
Then stir up the fire, till it burneth higher
Than ever it burned before.
When the coals glow hot, set ye the pot
Half full of the best brimstone.
And three of the worst and the most accursed
Hell claimeth as its own
Of demons bring, when the pot shall sing,
And cast them into the boil.'
Then over the region scattered the legion
Away to the fiendish toil.

They work with a will, and they work until
Three imps are aboil in the pot;
And the devil stands, and stirs with his hands
The liquid, seething hot;
And the demons revel around the devil
With many a fiendish shout,
Till he cries 'Ho, ho!' and the demons go
And turn the liquid out.

Turn it in, to a lake of gin,
Where the devil bathes, to cool.
Then lift it up, and turn on a cup
Of wine they dip from a pool.
Then they dip it in ale, till it turneth pale,
In beer, till it gloweth red.
It? nay, HE! for the thing they see
Is a man, from heel to head.

And he clasps the hands of the devil who stands
Bowing before his face.
And he says, 'Dear friend, will you please to send
A lad to show me my place?'

And the devil winks sly: and he says, 'Ay, ay!'
Old fellow, I guess you'll do.
You can work more wrong with that oily tongue
Than all my malicious crew.

'You must go to the earth! In th' halls of mirth,
In the teeming city's heart-
In any place that you show your face
I will help you do your part.

I will give you a name-it is steeped in shame,
But the world will use you well.
It is 'Liquor Dealer.' It means
soul stealer

And Major-General of Hell.
Go forth, my friend, and work to the end,
I will pay you in gleaming gold;
For every soul you drown in the bowl,
I will give you wealth untold.'

Then forth he went, this fiend hell-sent,
And he doeth his work to-day-
Doeth it well; and the hosts of hell
Are singing his praise alway.

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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 2, 2010

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