Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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

Spectres


How terrible these nights are when alone
With our scarred hearts, we sit in solitude,
And some old sorrow, to the world unknown,
Does suddenly with silent steps intrude.

After the guests departed, and the light
Burned dimly in my room, there came to me,
As noiselessly as shadows of the night,
The spectre of a woe that used to be.

Out of the gruesome darkness and the gloom
I saw it peering; and, in still despair,
I watched it gliding swift across the room,
Until it came and stood beside my chair.

Why, need I tell thee what its shape or name?
Thou hast thy secret hidden from the light:
And be it sin or sorrow, woe or shame,
Thou dost not like to meet it in the night.

And yet it comes. As certainly as death,
And far more cruel since death ends all pain,
On lonesome nights we feel its icy breath,
And turn and face the thing we fancied slain.

With shrinking hearts, we view the ghastly shape;
We look into its eyes with fear and dread,
And know that we can never more escape
Until the grave doth fold us with the dead.

On the swift maelstrom of the eddying world
We hurl our woes, and think they are no more.
But round and round by dizzy billows whirled,
They reach out sinewy arms and swim to shore.

Submitted: Friday, April 02, 2010

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