Ella Wheeler Wilcox (5 November 1850 - 30 October 1919 / Johnstown Center / Rock County / Wisconsin)
The Deadliest Sin
There are not many sins when once we sift them.
In actions of evolving human souls
Striving to reach high goals
And falling backward into dust and mire,
Some element we find that seems to lift them
Above our condemnation-even higher
Into the realm of pity and compassion.
So beauteous a thing as love itself can fashion
A chain of sins; descending to desire,
It wanders into dangerous paths, and leads
To most unholy deeds,
And light-struck, walks in madness toward the night.
Wrong oft-times is an over-ripened right,
A rank weed grown from some neglected flower,
The lightning uncontrolled: flames meant for joy
And beauty, used to ravage and destroy.
For sins like these repentance can atone.
There is one sin alone
Which seems all unforgivable, because
It springs from no temptation and no need
And no desire, save to make sweet faith bleed,
And to defame God's laws.
Oh! viler than the murderer or the thief
Who slays the body and who robs the purse,
Is he who strives to kill the mind's belief
And rob it of its hope
Of life beyond this little pain-filled span.
God has no curse
Quite dark enough to punish such a man,
Who, seeing how souls grope
And suffer in this world of mighty losses,
And how hearts stagger on beneath life's crosses,
Yet strives to rob them of their staff of faith
And make them think dark death
Ends all existence; think the worshipped child
Cold in its mother's arms is but a clod
And has not gone to God;
That souls united by love undefiled
And holy can by death be torn asunder
To meet no more.
It must be true that under
This earth of ours there lies a Purgatory
For those who seek to rob grief of the glory
That shines through hope of life immortal. In
Sin's lexicon this is the vilest sin-
Needless and cruel, ugly, gaunt and mean,
Without one poor excuse on which to lean,
A vandal sin, that with no hope of gain
Finds pleasure only in another's pain.
God! though all other sins on earth persist,
Strike dumb the blatant, loud-mouthed atheist.
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