Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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

The Actor


O man, with your wonderful dower,
O woman, with genius and grace,
You can teach the whole world with your power,
If you are but worthy the place.
The stage is a force and a factor
In moulding the thought of the day,
If only the heart of the actor
Is high as the theme of the play.

No discourse or sermon can reach us
Through feeling to reason like you;
No author can stir us and teach us
With lessons as subtle and true.
Your words and your gestures obeying
We weep or rejoice with your part,
And the player, behind all his playing,
He ought to be great at his art.

No matter what role you are giving,
No matter what skill you betray,
The everyday life you are living
Is certain to colour the play.
The thoughts we call secret and hidden
Are creatures of malice, in fact;
They steal forth unseen and unbidden,
And permeate motive and act.

The genius that shines like a comet
Fills only one part of God’s plan,
If the lesson the word derives from it
Is marred by the life of the man.
Be worthy your work if you love it;
The king should be fit for the crown;
Stand high as your art, or above it,
And make us look up and not down.

Submitted: Monday, May 26, 2003

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