Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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

The Voice


I dreamed a Voice, of one God-authorised,
Cried loudly thro’ the world, ‘Disarm! Disarm! ’
And there was consernation in the camps;
And men who strutted under braid and lace
Beat on their medalled breasts, and wailed,
‘Undone! ’
The word was echoed from a thousand hills,
And shop and mill, and factory and forge,
Where throve the awful industries of death,
Hushed into silence. Scrawled upon the doors,
The passer read, ‘Peace bids her children
Starve.’
But foolish women clasped their little sons
And wept for joy, not reasoning like men.

Again the Voice commanded: ‘Now go forth
And build a world for Progress and for Peace.
This world had waited since the earth was
Shaped;
But men were fighting, and they could not
Toil.
The needs of life outnumbered needs of death.
Leave death with God. Go forth, I say, and
Build.’

And then a sudden comprehensive joy
Shone in the eyes of men; and one who thought
Only of conquests and of victories
Woke from his gloomy reverie and cried,
‘Ay, come and build! I challenge all to try.
And I will make a world more beautiful
Then Eden was before the serpent came.’
And like a running flame on western wilds,
Ambition spread from mind to listening mind,
And lo! the looms were busy once again,
And all the earth resounded with men’s toil.

Vast palaces of Science graced the world;
Their banquet tables spread with feasts of truth
For all who hungered. Music kissed the air,
Once rent with boom of cannons. Statues gleamed
From wooded ways, where ambushed armies hid
In times of old. The sea and air were gay
With shining sails that soared from land to land.
A universal language of the world
Made nations kin, and poverty was known

But as a word marked ‘obsolete, ’ like war.
The arts were kindled with celestial fire;
New poets sang so Homer’s fame grew dim;
And brush and chisel gave the wondering race
Sublimer treasures than old Greece displayed.
Men differed still; fierce argument arose,
For men are human in this human sphere;
But unarmed Arbitration stood between
And Reason settled in a hundred hours
What War disputed for a hundred years.

Oh, that a Voice, of one God-authorised
Might cry to all mankind, Disarm! Disarm!

Remembered
His art was loving; Eres set his sign
Upon that youthful forehead, and he drew
The hearts of women, as the sun draws dew.
Love feeds love’s thirst as wine feeds love of wine;
Nor is there any potion from the vine
Which makes men drunken like the subtle brew
Of kisses crushed by kisses; and he grew
Inebriated with that draught divine.

Yet in his sober moments, when the sun
Of radiant summer paled to lonely fall,
And passion’s sea had grown an ebbing tide,
From out the many, Memory singled one
Full cup that seemed the sweetest of them all –
The warm red mouth that mocked him and denied.

Submitted: Monday, May 26, 2003

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