Ella Wheeler Wilcox (5 November 1850 - 30 October 1919 / Johnstown Center / Rock County / Wisconsin)
Then And Now
A little time agone, a few brief years,
And there was peace within our beauteous borders;
Peace, and a prosperous people, and no fears
Of war and its disorders.
Pleasure was ruling goddess of our land; with her attendant Mirth
She led a jubilant, joy-seeking band about the riant earth.
Do you recall those laughing days, my Brothers,
And those long nights that trespassed on the dawn?
Those throngs of idle dancing maids and mothers
Who lilted on and on-
Card mad, wine flushed, bejewelled and half stripped,
Yet women whose sweet mouth had never sipped
From sin's black chalice-women good at heart
Who, in the winding maze of pleasure's mart,
Had lost the sun-kissed way to wholesome pleasures of an earlier day.
Oh! You remember them! You filled their glasses;
You 'cut in' at their games of bridge; you left
Your work to drop in on their dancing-classes
Before the day was cleft
In twain by noontide. When the night waxed late
You led your partner forth to demonstrate
The newest steps before a cheering throng,
And Time and Peace danced by your side along.
Peace is a lovely word, and we abhor that red word 'War';
But look ye, Brothers, what this war has done for daughters and for son,
For manhood and for womanhood, whose trend
Seemed year on year toward weakness to descend.
Upon this woof of darkness and of terror, woven by human error,
Behold the pattern of a new race-soul,
And it shall last while countless ages roll.
At the loud call of drums, out of the idler and the weakling comes
The hero valiant with self-sacrifice, ready to pay the price
War asks of men, to help a suffering world.
And out of the arms of pleasure, where they whirled
In wild unreasoning mirth, behold the splendid women of the earth
Living new selfless lives-the toiling mothers, sister, daughters, wives
Of men gone forth as target for the foe.
Ah, now we know
Man is divine; we see the heavenly spark
Shining above the smoke and gloom and dark
Which was not visible in peaceful days.
God! wondrous are Thy ways,
For out of chaos comes construction; out of darkness and of doubt
And the black pit of death comes glorious faith;
From want and waste comes thrift, from weakness strength and power,
And to the summits men and women lift
Their souls from self-indulgence in this hour,
This crucial hour of life:
So shines the golden side of this black shield of strife.
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