Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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

When I Am Dead


When I am dead, if some chastened one
Seeing the 'item, ' or hearing it said
That my play is over and my part done
And I lie asleep in my narrow bed -
If I could know that some soul would say,
Speaking aloud or silently,
'In the heat and the burden of the day
She gave a refreshing draught to me';

Or, 'When I was lying nigh unto death
She nursed me to life and to strength again,
And when I laboured and struggled for breath
She smoothed and quieted down my pain';
Or, 'When I was groping in grief and doubt,
Lost, and turned from the light o'er the day,
Her hand reached me and helped me out
And led me up to the better way';

Or, 'When I was hated and shunned by all,
Bowing under my sin and shame,
She, once in passing me by, let fall
Words of pity and hope, that came
Into my heart like a blessed calm
Over the waves of the stormy sea,
Words of comfort like oil and balm,
She spake, and the desert blossomed for me';

Better, by far, than a marble tomb -
Than a monument towering over my head
(What shall I care, in my quiet room,
For headboard or footboard when I am dead?):
Better than glory, or honours, or fame
(Though I am striving for those to-day) ,
To know that some heart would cherish my name
And think of me kindly, with blessings, alway.

Submitted: Monday, May 19, 2003

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