Ella Wheeler Wilcox (5 November 1850 - 30 October 1919 / Johnstown Center / Rock County / Wisconsin)
The Two Ships
On the sea of life they floated,
Brothers twain in manhood's pride,
And the good ship 'Temperance' bore them,
Safely o'er the stormy tide.
Not a thought of rock or breaker,
Not a fear of wreck had they,
For their ship was strong and steady-
Faithful, trusty, night and day.
So they floated on together,
Full of youth's elastic joy,
Floated till the air was startled
With the cry of 'Boat ahoy!'
And they saw a craft beside them,
Dainty, jaunty, frail, and fair,
And its banner showed a wine-glass,
Painted as its symbol there.
And again the stranger shouted,
'Boat ahoy! a friend is near!
Captain of yon gallant vessel,
Do you see, and do you hear?
We're the 'Social Glass,' my hearties,
And a jolly, jovial crew.
We are bound for Pleasure Valley,
And we would be friends with you.'
But the brothers stood in silence,
Though they could not help but hear,
And the elder's heart was throbbing
With a vague and chilling fear.
And again the stranger pleaded,
'Come aboard the 'Social Glass'!
We will entertain you warmly,
And the time will quickly pass.'
Still the elder stood unheeding,
Still he did not move or turn,
And his mien was cold and haughty,
And his face was dark and stern.
But the younger whispered to him,
'Surely, we are churls to stand
In this sullen, boorish silence;
Let us offer friendship's hand.
'See! they beckon us to join them!
Beckon us with word and smile.
I will not refuse them longer,
I will join them for a while.'
Then the 'Social Glass' rowed nearer,
And he joined the jovial throng,
And they gathered round about him,
Greeting him with laugh and song.
Then the elder cried in anguish,
Loud and wild his accents fell:
'Know you not, O brother, brother!
Yonder ship is bound for hell?
See the clouds that hover o'er you!
And the day is growing dark:
There is ruin and destruction
For each soul upon that bark.
'Oh! come back! Why did you leave me?
It is certain death to stay,
Do not loiter! do not linger!
Brother, brother, come away!'
But the wild winds only answered
To his agonizing plea;
And the 'Social Glass' went bounding
Lightly o'er the troubled sea.
He could hear their shouts of laughter,
He could see their goblets shine,
He could see his darling brother
With his lips all red with wine.
Ah! a seething, boiling maelstrom
Lay within their very track,
And he warned them of their danger,
And he strove to turn them back.
But they did not, would not heed him:
On they went in wildest glee!
Nearer, nearer to the whirlpool,
Nearer to the boiling sea,
Till the 'Social Glass' was buried
In the seething, rushing wave,
And each mad and wreckless voyager
Found a dark and awful grave.
And the lonely brother floated
Calmly o'er the stormy tide,
For the good ship 'Temperance' bore him
Safely o'er the waters wide.
And he never left her shelter
Till the voyage of life was o'er,
And he anchored where the angels
Waited for him on the shore.
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