Ella Wheeler Wilcox (5 November 1850 - 30 October 1919 / Johnstown Center / Rock County / Wisconsin)
The Black Charger
There's a terrible steed that rests not night nor day,
But onward and onward, for ever away,
Through hamlet, through village, through country, through town,
Is heard the dread thud of his hoofs beating down;
Is seen the fierce eye, is felt the hot breath;
And before it, behind it, spreads ruin and death:
By castle, by cottage, by hut, and by hall,
Still faster and fiercer he passes them all.
He breathes on the youth with the face of the morn,
He leaves him a mark for the finger of scorn;
He cries, 'Mount and ride! I will bear you away
To the fair fields of pleasure. Come, mount me, I say!'
And, alas for the youth! he is borne like the wind,
And he leaveth his manhood, his virtue, behind;
And faster, still faster, he speeds down the track,
Where many shall follow, and few shall come back.
He breathes on the heart that is stricken with grief:
'Come, mount me! and fly to the plains of relief.
I will bear you away to the fair fields elysian,
Where your sorrows shall seem but a long-vanished vision.
With the future before you, forgetting the past,
You shall revel in pleasure, rejoicing at last.'
Ah! whoso shall mount shall ride to his doom:
Shall be sunk in the marshes of terror and gloom.
He breathes on the king, and he breathes on the slave;
On the young and the old from the crib to the grave;
On masterly minds, and they wither away
As the flower droops and dies 'neath a torrid sun's ray;
On beautiful souls that are pure as the light,
And they shrivel, polluted with mildew and blight:
The master, the servant, the high and the low,
He bears them all down to the regions of woe.
Ho! ho! temperance clan! rest ye not night nor day:
Watch, watch for the steed! starve him down! block his way!
Throw him into the dust! seize his long, flowing mane!
Bind his terrible limbs till he quivers in pain.
Stab him through to the heart! beat him down till he lies
Stark and stiff on the earth-beat him down till he dies!
Till never by castle, by cottage, by hall,
Shall again pass the black-hearted steed, Alcohol!
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