Treasure Island

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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

The Black Sheep


'Black sheep, black sheep, have you any wool?'
'Yes, sir-yes, sir: three bags full.'

'I don't want any New Thought,' said he,
'Or any Theosophy, for, you see,
The faith I learned at my mother's knee
Is good enough for me.
Of course, I'm a wee bit broader than she,
Hearing one sermon where she heard three,
And I read my paper on Sunday, instead
Of the Bible only. My mother said
I was a black sheep, when she saw
I strayed a trifle away from the law,
And didn't think everyone left in the lurch
Who happened to go to a different church;
But, still, in the main, her creed is mine,
And I don't want anything more divine.'
Yet his mother's mother was more austere;
She taught her children a creed of fear,
And she called them 'black sheep' when, with a shock,
She saw them straying away from the flock,
Just far enough
To get around places they thought too rough,
Like infant damnation and endless hell.


But his mother's mother's mother would tell
How her mother thought it was God's sweet will
To punish and torture a heretic till
They drove out the devil that made him dare
Think for himself in the matter of prayer
And faith and salvation. So we see how it is
If we look back over the centuries-
The creeds men learned at their mother's knee
When Salem witches were hanged to a tree,
And the pious dames flocked thither to see,
Are not deemed Christian or holy to-day;
And the bold black sheep who went straying away
From rut-worn paths in their search for God,
And leaped over the fence into pastures broad,
Are the great trail-makers for mortal souls,
Leading the race up to higher goals
And a larger religion; where man must find
God dwelling ever within his mind,
Christ in his conduct, and heaven in his thought,
And hell but the places where love is not.
A mighty religion that makes this earth
But the cradle that fits us for death's new birth
And the life beyond it, that is so near
Its echoes may reach to the listening ear.

'Black sheep, black sheep, have you any wool?'
'Yes, sir-yes, sir: a whole world full.'

Submitted: Friday, April 02, 2010

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