Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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

What Had He Done?


I saw the farmer, when the day was done,
And the proud sun had sought his crimson bed,
And the mild stars came forward one by one-
I saw the sturdy farmer, and I said:
'What have you done to-day,
O farmer! say?'


'Oh! I have sown the wheat in yonder field,
And pruned my orchard to increase its yield,
And turned the furrow for a patch of corn:
This have I done, with other things, since morn.'


I saw the blacksmith in his smithy-door,
When day had vanished and the west grew red,
And all the busy noise and strife were o'er-
I saw the kingly blacksmith, and I said:
'What have you done to-day,
O blacksmith! say?


'Oh! I have made two plough-shares all complete,
And nailed the shoes on many horses' feet;
And-O my friend! I cannot tell you half,'
The man of muscle answered, with a laugh.


I saw the miller, when the day had gone,
And all the sunlight from the hills had fled,
And tender shadows crept across the lawn-
I saw the trusty miller, and I said:
'What have you done to-day,
O miller gray?'


'Oh! I have watched my mill from morn to night,
And never saw yon flour so snowy white.
And many are the mouths to-day I've fed,
I ween,' the merry miller laughed and said.


I saw another, when the night grew nigh,
And turned each daily toiler from his task,
When gold and crimson banners decked the sky-
I saw another, and I paused to ask:
'What have you done to-day,
Rumseller, say?'


But the rumseller turned with dropping head,
And not a single word in answer said.
What had he done? His work he knew full well
Was plunging human souls in deepest hell.


Alas! rumseller, on that awful day,
When death shall call you, and your race is run,
How can you answer? What can you hope to say?
When God shall ask you, 'What have you done?'
How can you meet the eye
Of the Most High?


When night approaches and the day grows late,
Think you to find the way to heaven's gate?
Think you to dwell with souls of righteous men?
Think you to enter in? If not, what then?

Submitted: Friday, April 02, 2010

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