Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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

Wild Oats


I saw a fair youth, with a brow broad and white,
And an eye that was beaming with intellect's light:
And his face seemed to glow with the wealth of his mind;
And I said, 'He will grace and ennoble mankind:
He is Nature's own king.'


We met yet again. I saw the youth stand
With a bowl that was flowing and red in his hand;
And he filled it again, and again did he quaff,
And his friends gathered round him, and said with a laugh,
'He is sowing his oats.'


Ah! his eye was too bright, and his cheek was too red,
And I gazed on the youth with a feeling of dread;
And again as he laughingly lifted the bowl,
I turned from the scene with a shuddering soul:
It was terrible seed!


We met but once more. I found in the street
A corpse half-enveloped in mud and in sleet:
A foul, bloated thing; but I saw in the face
A something that told of its boyhood's grace:
He had reaped the dire crop.


O youths who are sowing wild oats! do you know
That the terrible seed you are planting will grow?
Have you thought how your God will require some day
An account of the life you are throwing away?
Have you thought, O rash youth?


It will soon be too late, there is no time to waste;
Then throw down the cup! do not touch, do not taste!
It is filled with destruction and sorrow and pain:
Throw it down! throw it down! do not lift it again:
It will soon be too late!

Submitted: Friday, April 02, 2010

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