Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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

The Mother's Prayer - Poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

A mother kneels by the cradle,
Where her little infant lies,
And she sees the ghastly shadows
Creeping around his eyes.
And she clasps her hands together,
And her heart beats loud and wild,
And she cries in a gush of anguish,
'O Father! save my child.

'Oh! do not, do not take him
So soon to the home on high;
My beautiful, dark-eyed darling,
O God! he must not die.
I cannot pray in meekness,
'My Father's will be done.'
I can only cry in anguish,
'Oh! save my infant son.''

Slowly the ghastly shadows
Crept from the baby's eyes,
And the mother saw the bright orbs
Open in sweet surprise.
And she heard the lisping prattle
And the childish laugh again,
And she clasped him close to her bosom,
And her glad tears fell like rain.

The mother stands at the window,
Watching the night come down,
As it settles slowly, slowly,
Over the busy town.
And the withered face is troubled,
And she sighs in a weary way:
'Oh! where does my darling tarry,
Now at the close of day?

'Surely his task is ended:
Why is it he does not come?'
Ah! mother, one word will answer,
And that one word is Rum.
He stands at the bar this moment,
Draining the tempter's bowl;
And your beautiful boy has entered
His name on the drunkards' roll.

Ah! well, your prayer was answered:
You prayed that he might not die,
That he might not join the angels
Who dwell in their home on high.
O mother! say, is it better,
Or is it worse than death,
To see your darling stagger,
And feel his rum-foul breath?

You could not pray, 'My Father,
Thy will, not mine, be done,'
But cried, in your deaf, blind sorrow,
'Oh! save my infant son.'
And is he saved, fond mother?
And which is better, pray,
To know he is there in the rum-shop,
Or under the grass, to-day?

O God of a mighty nation!
When shall the glad day be
That the liquor reign is ended,
And our land is truly free?-
When our darling boys may wander
Through all its length and breadth,
With never a serpent lurking
To slay them in their strength?

Full many a year has vanished
Since the grand triumphant day
When we stood in bold defiance
Of a tyrant monarch's sway;
And now in a blood-red torrent,
At the price of a million graves,
We have swept the bonds and shackles
From the hands of a million slaves.

And yet we are under a tyrant,
And yet we are slaves to-day,
And we do not bid defiance
To the baleful liquor sway.
Up! O ye mourning captives!
Strike at the tyrant's hand!
Loosen his hold for ever-
Deliver a bondaged land!

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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 2, 2010

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