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Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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

Sestina


I wandered o'er the vast green plains of youth,
And searched for Pleasure. On a distant height
Fame's silhouette stood sharp against the skies.
Beyond vast crowds that thronged a broad highway
I caught the glimmer of a golden goal,
While from a blooming bower smiled siren Love.

Straight gazing in her eyes, I laughed at Love,
With all the haughty insolence of youth,
As past her bower I strode to seek my goal.
'Now will I climb to glory's dizzy height, '
I said, ' for there above the common way
Doth pleasure dwell companioned by the skies.'

But when I reached that summit near the skies,
So far from man I seemed, so far from Love-
'Not here, ' I cried, 'doth Pleasure find her way, '
Seen from the distant borderland of youth.
Fame smiles upon us from her sun-kissed height,
But frowns in shadows when we reach the goal.

Then were mine eyes fixed on that glittering goal,
Dear to all sense-sunk souls beneath the skies.
Gold tempts the artist from the lofty height,
Gold lures the maiden from the arms of Love,
Gold buys the fresh ingenuous heart of youth,
'And gold, ' I said, 'will show me Pleasure's way.'

But ah! the soil and discord of that way,
Where savage hordes rushed headlong to the goal,
Dead to the best impulses of their youth,
Blind to the azure beauty of the skies;
Dulled to the voice of conscience and of love,
They wandered far from Truth's eternal height.

Then Truth spoke to me from that noble height,
Saying: 'Thou didst pass Pleasure on the way,
She with the yearning eyes so full of Love,
Whom thou disdained to seek for glory's goal.'
Two blending paths beneath God's arching skies
Lead straight to Pleasure. Ah, blind heart of youth,
Not up fame's height, not toward the base god's goal,
Doth Pleasure make her way, but 'neath calm skies
Where Duty walks with Love in endless youth.

Submitted: Wednesday, June 04, 2003

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