This etext was produced from the 1913 Gay and Hancock edition by David Price, email firstname.lastname@example.org
POEMS OF PROGRESS
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
The Land Between
The Need of the World
The Gulf Stream
Helen of Troy
Lais when Young
Lais when Old
Art versus Cupid
The Revolt of Vashti
The Choosing of Esther
The Edict of the Sex
On seeing ‘The House of Julia’ at Herculaneum A Prayer
What is Right Living?
The Worker and the Work
Art thou Alive?
Who is a Christian?
The New Commandment
The Breaking of Chains
The Leader to be
The Greater Love
Thank God for Life
New Year’s Day
Life is a Privilege
In an Old Art Gallery
Lord, speak again
The Age of Motored Things
A Little Song
PREFACE: LOVE’S LANGUAGE
When silence flees before the voice of Love, Of what expression does that god approve? Is dulcet song or flowing verse his choice, Or stately prose, made regal by his voice? Speaks Love in couplets, or in epics grand? And is Love humble, or does he command?
There is no language that Love does not speak: To-day commanding and to-morrow meek,
One hour laconic and the next verbose, With hope triumphant and with doubt morose, His varying moods all forms of speech employ. To give expression to his painful joy,
To voice the phases of his joyful pain, He rings the changes on the poet’s strain. Yet not in epic, epigram or verse
Can Love the passion of his heart rehearse. All speech, all language, is inadequate, There are no words with Love commensurate.
THE LAND BETWEEN
Between the little Here and larger Yonder, There is a realm (or so one day I read) Where faithful spirits love-enchained may wander, Till some remembering soul from earth has fled. Then, reunited, they go forth afar,
From sphere to sphere, where wondrous angels are.
Not many spirits in that realm are waiting; Not many pause upon its shores to rest; For only love, intense and unabating,
Can hold them from the longer, higher quest. And after grief has wept itself to sleep, Few hearts on earth their vital memories keep.
Should I pass on, across the mystic border, Let thy love link me to that pallid land; I would not seek the heavens of finer order Until thy barque had left this coarser strand. How desolate such journeyings would be,
Though straight to Him, were they not shared by thee.
Wert thou first called (dear God, how could I bear it?) I should enchain thee with my love, I know. Not great enough am I to free thy spirit From all these tender ties, and bid thee go. Nor would a soul, unselfish as thine own, Forget so soon, and speed to heaven alone.
On earth we find no joy in ways diverging; How could we find it in the worlds unseen? I know old memories from my bosom surging, Would keep thee waiting in that Land Between, Until together, side by side, we trod
A path of stars, in our great search for God.
Midway upon the route, he paused athirst And suddenly across the wastes of heat, He saw cool waters gleaming, and a sweet Green oasis upon his vision burst.
A tender dream, long in his bosom nursed, Spread love’s illusive verdure for his feet; The barren sands changed into golden wheat; The way grew glad that late had seemed accursed.
She shone, the woman wonder, on his soul; The garden spot, for which men toil and wait; The house of rest, that is each heart’s demand; But when, at last, he reached the gleaming goal, He found, oh, cruel irony of fate,
But desert sun upon the desert sand.
THE NEED OF THE WORLD
I know the need of the world,
Though it would not have me know. It would hide its sorrow deep,
Where only God may go.
Yet its secret it can not keep;
It tells it awake, or asleep,
It tells it to all who will heed,
And he who runs may read.
The need of the world I know.
I know the need of the world,
When it boasts of its wealth the loudest, When it flaunts it in all men’s eyes,
When its mien is the gayest and proudest. Oh! ever it lies–it lies,
For the sound of its laughter dies
In a sob and a smothered moan,
And it weeps when it sits alone.
The need of the world I know.
I know the need of the world.
When the earth shakes under the tread Of men who march to the fight,
When rivers with blood are red
And there is no law but might,
And the wrong way seems the right;
When he who slaughters the most
Is all men’s pride and boast.
The need of the world I know.
I know the need of the world.
When it babbles of gold and fame, It is only to lead us astray
From the thing that it dare not name, For this is the sad world’s way.
Oh! poor blind world grown grey
With the need of a thing so near,
With the want of a thing so dear.
The need of the world I know.
The need of the world is love.
Deep under the pride of power,
Down under its lust of greed,
For the joys that last but an hour, There lies forever its need.
For love is the law and the creed
And love is the unnamed goal
Of life, from man to the mole.
Love is the need of the world.
THE GULF STREAM
Skilled mariner, and counted sane and wise, That was a curious thing which chanced to me, So good a sailor on so fair a sea.
With favouring winds and blue unshadowed skies, Led by the faithful beacon of Love’s eyes, Past reef and shoal, my life-boat bounded free And fearless of all changes that might be Under calm waves, where many a sunk rock lies.
A golden dawn; yet suddenly my barque Strained at the sails, as in a cyclone’s blast; And battled with an unseen current’s force, For we had entered when the night was dark That old tempestuous Gulf Stream of the Past. But for love’s eyes, I had not kept the course.
His art was loving; Eres set his sign Upon that youthful forehead, and he drew The hearts of women, as the sun draws dew. Love feeds love’s thirst as wine feeds love of wine; Nor is there any potion from the vine
Which makes men drunken like the subtle brew Of kisses crushed by kisses; and he grew Inebriated with that draught divine.
Yet in his sober moments, when the sun Of radiant summer paled to lonely fall, And passion’s sea had grown an ebbing tide, From out the many, Memory singled one
Full cup that seemed the sweetest of them all – The warm red mouth that mocked him and denied.
HELEN OF TROY
ON THE ISLE OF CRANAE
The world an abject vassal to her charms, And kings competing for a single smile,
Yet love she knew not, till upon this isle She gave surrender to abducting arms.
Not Theseus, who plucked her lips’ first kiss, Not Menelaus, lawful mate and spouse,
Such answering passion in her heart could rouse, Or wake such tumult in her soul as this. Let come what will, let Greece and Asia meet, Let heroes die and kingdoms run with gore; Let devastation spread from shore to shore – Resplendent Helen finds her bondage sweet. The whole world fights her battles, while she lies Sunned in the fervour of young Paris’ eyes.
ON THE ISLE OF RHODES
The battles ended, ardent Paris dead, Of faithful Menelaus long bereft,
Time is the only suitor who is left: Helen survives, with youth and beauty fled. By hate remembered, but by love forgot,
Dethroned and driven from her high estate, Unhappy Helen feels the lash of Fate
And knows at last an unloved woman’s lot. The Grecian marvel, and the Trojan joy,
The world’s fair wonder, from her palace flies The furies follow, and great Helen dies, A death of horror, for the pride of Troy.
* * *
Yet Time, like Menelaus, all forgives. Helen, immortal in her beauty, lives.
LAIS WHEN YOUNG
Lais when young, and all her charms in flower, Lais, whose beauty was the fateful light That led great ships to anchor in the night And bring their priceless cargoes to her bower, Lais yet found her cup of sweet turned sour. Great Plato’s pupil, from his lofty height, Zenocrates, unmoved, had seen the white Sweet wonder of her, and defied her power.
She snared the world in nets of subtle wiles: The proud, the famed, all clamoured at her gate; Dictators plead, inside her portico;
Wisdom sought madness, in her favouring smiles; Now was she made the laughing-stock of fate: One loosed her clinging arms, and bade her go.
LAIS WHEN OLD
Lais, when old and all her beauty gone, Lais, the erstwhile courted pleasure queen, Walked homeless through Corinth.
One mocked her mien –
One tossed her coins; she took them and passed on. Down by the harbour sloped a terraced lawn, Where fountains played; she paused to view the scene. A marble palace stood in bowers of green ‘Twas here of old she revelled till the dawn.
Through yonder portico her lovers came – Hero and statesman, athlete, merchant, sage; They flung the whole world’s treasures at her feet To buy her favour and exalt her shame.
* * *
She spat upon her dole of coins in rage And faded like a phantom down the street.
You are here, and you are wanted,
Though a waif upon life’s stair;
Though the sunlit hours are haunted With the shadowy shapes of care.
Still the Great One, the All-Seeing Called your spirit into being –
Gave you strength for any fate.
Since your life by Him was needed,
All your ways by Him are heeded –
You can trust and you can wait.
You can wait to know the meaning
Of the troubles sent your soul;
Of the chasms intervening
‘Twixt your purpose and your goal; Of the sorrows and the trials,
Of the silence and denials,
Ofttimes answering to your pleas; Of the stinted sweets of pleasure,
And of pain’s too generous measure – You can wait the WHY of these.
Forth from planet unto planet,
You have gone, and you will go.
Space is vast, but we must span it; For life’s purpose is TO KNOW.
Earth retains you but a minute,
Make the best of what lies in it;
Light the pathway where you are.
There is nothing worth the doing
That will leave regret or rueing,
As you speed from star to star.
You are part of the Beginning,
You are parcel of To-day.
When He set His world to spinning
You were flung upon your way.
When the system falls to pieces,
When this pulsing epoch ceases,
When the IS becomes the WAS,
You will live, for you will enter
In the great Creative Centre,
In the All-Enduring Cause.
Sailing away on a summer sea,
Out of the bleak March weather;
Drifting away for a loaf and play,
Just you and I together;
And it’s good-bye worry and good-bye hurry And never a care have we;
With the sea below and the sun above And nothing to do but dream and love,
Sailing away together.
Sailing away from the grim old town
And tasks the town calls duty;
Sailing away from walls of grey
To a land of bloom and beauty,
And it’s good-bye to letters from our lessers and our betters, To the cold world’s smile or its frown.
We sail away on a sunny track
To find the summer and bring it back And love is our only duty.
Afloat on a sea of passion
Without a compass or chart,
But the glow of your eye shows the sun is high, By the sextant of my heart.
I know we are nearing the tropics
By the languor that round us lies, And the smile on your mouth says the course is south And the port is Paradise.
We have left grey skies behind us,
We sail under skies of blue;
You are off with me on lovers’ sea, And I am away with you.
We have not a single sorrow,
And I have but one fear –
That my lips may miss one offered kiss From the mouth that is smiling near.
There is no land of winter;
There is no world of care;
There is bloom and mirth all over the earth, And love, love everywhere.
Our boat is the barque of Pleasure, And whatever port we sight
The touch of your hand will make the land The Harbour of Pure Delight.
(THE CHILD OF ABELARD AND HELOISE)
I wrenched from a passing comet in its flight, By that great force of two mad hearts aflame, A soul incarnate, back to earth you came, To glow like star-dust for a little night. Deep shadows hide you wholly from our sight; The centuries leave nothing but your name, Tinged with the lustre of a splendid shame, That blazed oblivion with rebellious light.
The mighty passion that became your cause, Still burns its lengthening path across the years; We feel its raptures, and we see its tears And ponder on its retributive laws.
Time keeps that deathless story ever new; Yet finds no answer, when we ask of you.
At Argenteuil, I saw the lonely cell
Where Heloise dreamed through her broken rest, That baby lips pulled at her undried breast. It needed but my woman’s heart to tell
Of those long vigils and the tears that fell When aching arms reached out in fruitless quest, As after flight, wings brood an empty nest. (So well I know that sorrow, ah, so well.)
Across the centuries there comes no sound Of that vast anguish; not one sigh or word Or echo of the mother loss has stirred, The sea of silence, lasting and profound. Yet to each heart, that once has felt this grief, Sad Memory restores Time’s missing leaf.
But what of you? Who took the mother’s place When sweet expanding love its object sought? Was there a voice to tell her tragic lot, And did you ever look upon her face?
Was yours a cloistered seeking after grace? Or in the flame of adolescent thought
Were Abelard’s departed passions caught To burn again in you and leave their trace?
Conceived in nature’s bold primordial way (As in their revolutions, suns create), You came to earth, a soul immaculate,
Baptized in fire, with some great part to play. What was that part, and wherefore hid from us, Immortal mystery, Astrolabius!
When I shall meet God’s generous dispensers Of all the riches in the heavenly store, Those lesser gods, who act as Recompensers For loneliness and loss upon this shore, Methinks abashed, and somewhat hesitating, My soul its wish and longing will declare. Lest they reply: ‘Here are no bounties waiting: We gave on earth, your portion and your share.’
Then shall I answer: ‘Yea, I do remember The many blessings to my life allowed; My June was always longer than December, My sun was always stronger than my cloud, My joy was ever deeper than my sorrow,
My gain was ever greater than my loss, My yesterday seemed less than my to-morrow, The crown looked always larger than the cross.
‘I have known love, in all its radiant splendour, It shone upon my pathway to the end.
I trod no road that did not bloom with tender And fragrant blossoms, planted by some friend. And those material things we call successes, In modest measure, crowned my earthly lot. Yet was there one sweet happiness that blesses The life of woman, which to me came not.
‘I knew the hope of motherhood; a season I felt a fluttering heart beat ‘neath my own; A little cry–then silence. For that reason I dare, to you, my only wish make known. The babe who grew to angelhood in heaven, I never watched unfold from child to man. And so I ask, that unto me be given
That motherhood, which was God’s primal plan.
‘All womankind He meant to share its glories; He meant us all to nurse our babes to rest. To croon them songs, to tell them sleepy stories, Else why the wonder of a woman’s breast? He must provide for all earth’s cheated mothers In His vast heavens of shining sphere on sphere, And with my son, there must be many others – My spirit children who will claim me here.
‘Fair creatures by my loving thoughts created – Too finely fashioned for a mortal birth – Between the borders of two worlds they waited Until they saw my spirit leave the earth. In God’s great nursery they must be waiting To welcome me with many an infant wile. Now let me go and satisfy this longing
To mother children for a little while.’
As the grey twilight, tiptoed down the deep And shadowy valley, to the day’s dark end, She whom I thought my ever-faithful friend, Fair-browed, calm-eyed and mother-bosomed Sleep, Met me with smiles. ‘Poor longing heart, I keep Sweet joy for you,’ she murmured. ‘I will send One whom you love, with your own soul to blend In visions, as the night hours onward creep.’
I trusted her; and watched by starry beams, I slumbered soundly, free from all alarms. Then not my love, but one long banished came, Led by false Sleep, down secret stairs of dreams And clasped me, unresisting in fond arms. Oh, treacherous sleep–to sell me to such shame!
ART VERSUS CUPID
[A room in a private house. A maiden sitting before a fire meditating.]
Now have I fully fixed upon my part.
Good-bye to dreams; for me a life of art! Beloved art! Oh, realm serene and fair,
Above the mean and sordid world of care, Above earth’s small ambitions and desires! Art! art! the very word my soul inspires! From foolish memories it sets me free.
Not what has been, but that which is to be Absorbs me now. Adieu to vain regret!
The bow is tensely drawn–the target set. [A knock at the door.]
The night is dark and chill; the hour is late. (Aloud)
Who knocks upon my door?
A Voice Outside
‘Tis I, your fate!
Thou dost deceive, not me, but thine own self. My fate is not a wandering, vagrant elf. My fate is here, within this throbbing heart That beats alone for glory, and for art.
[Another knock at door.]
Pray, let me in; I am so faint and cold. [Door is pushed ajar. Enter CUPID, who aproaches the fire with outstretched hands.]
Methinks thou art not faint, however cold, But rather too courageous, and most bold; Surprisingly ill-mannered, sir, and rude, Without an invitation to intrude
Into my very presence.
CUPID (warming his hands)
But, you see,
Girls never mind a little chap like me. They’re always watching for me on the sly, And hoping I will call.
Indeed, not I!
My heart has listened to a sweeter voice, A clarion call that gives command–not choice. And I have answered to that call, ‘I come’; To other voices shall my ears be dumb.
To art alone I consecrate my life – Art is my spouse, and I his willing wife.
CUPID (slowly, gazing in the grate)
Art is a sultan, and you must divide
His love with many another ill-fed bride. Now I know one who worships you alone.
I will not listen! for the dice is thrown And art has won me. On my brow some day
Shall rest the laurel wreath–
CUPID (sitting down and looking at MAID critically)
Just let me say
I think sweet orange blossoms under lace Are better suited to your type of face.
MAID (ignoring interruption)
I yet shall stand before an audience
That listens as one mind, absorbed, intense, And with my genius I shall rouse its cheers, Still it to silence, soften it to tears, Or wake its laughter. Oh, the play! the play! The play’s the thing! My boy, THE PLAY!!
CUPID (suddenly clapping his hands)
I know a splendid role for you to take, And one that always keeps the house awake – And calls for pretty dressing. Oh, it’s great!
Well, well, what is it? Wherefore make me wait?
CUPID (tapping his brow, thoughtfully)
How is it those lines run–oh, now I know; You make a stately entrance–measured–slow– To stirring music, then you kneel and say Something about–to honour and obey –
For better and for worse–till death do part.
Be still, you foolish boy; that is not ART.
She needs great skill who takes the role of wife In God’s stupendous drama human life.
MAID (suddenly becoming serious)
So I once thought! Oh, once my very soul Was filled and thrilled with dreaming of that role. Life seemed so wonderful; it held for me No purpose, no ambition, but to be
Loving and loved. My highest thought of fame Was some day bearing my dear lover’s name. Alone, I ofttimes uttered it aloud,
Or wrote it down, half timid, and all proud To see myself lost utterly in him:
As some small star might joy in growing dim When sinking in the sun; or as the dew,
Forgetting the brief little life it knew In space, might on the ocean’s bosom fall And ask for nothing–only to give all.
Now, THAT’S the talk–it’s music to my ear After that stuff on ‘art’ and a ‘career.’ I hope she’ll keep it up.
MAIDEN (continuing her reverie)
Again my dream
Shaped into changing pictures. I would seem To see myself in beautiful array
Move down the aisle upon my wedding day; And then I saw the modest living-room
With lighted lamp, and fragrant plants in bloom, And books and sewing scattered all about, And just we two alone.
CUPID (in glee aside)
There’s not a doubt
I’ll land her yet!
My dream kaleidoscope
Changed still again, and framed love’s dearest hope – The trinity of home; and life was good
And all its deepest meaning understood.
[Sits lost in a dream. Behind scenes a voice sings a lullaby, ‘Beautiful Land of Nod.’ CUPID in ecstasy tiptoes about and clasps his hands in delight.]
Another scene! a matron in her prime, I saw myself glide peacefully with time
Into the quiet middle years, content With simple joys the dear home circle lent. My sons and daughters made my diadem;
I saw my happy youth renewed in them. The pain of growing old lost all its sting, For Love stood near–in Winter, as in Spring.
[CUPID tiptoes to door and makes a signal. MAIDEN starts up dramatically.]
‘Twas but a dream! I woke all suddenly. The world had changed! And now life means to me My art–the stage–excitement and the crowd – The glare of many foot-lights–and the loud Applause of men, as I cry in rage,
‘Give me the dagger!’ or creep down the stage In that sleep-walking scene. Oh, art like mine Will send the chills down every listener’s spine! And when I choose, salt tears shall freely flow As in the moonlight I cry, ‘Romeo! Romeo! Oh, wherefore art thou, Romeo?’
Ay, ’tis done
My dream of home life.
It is but begun.
The heart but once can dream a dream so fair, And so henceforth love thoughts I do forswear; Since faith in love has crumbled to the dust, In fame alone, I put my hope and trust.
[CUPID at the door beckons excitedly. Enter lover with outstretched arms.]
Here’s one who will explain yourself to you And make that old sweet dream of love come true. Fix up your foolish quarrel; time is brief – So waste no more of it in doubt or grief.
[The lovers meet and embrace.]
CUPID (in doorway)
Warm lip to lip, and heart to beating heart, The cast is made–My Lady has her part.
THE REVOLT OF VASHTI
(FROM THE DRAMA OF MIZPAH)
Is this the way to greet thy loving spouse, But now returned from scenes of blood and strife? I pray thee raise thy veil and let me gaze Upon that beauty which hath greater power To conquer me than all the arts of war!
My beauty! Ay, my BEAUTY! I do hold,
In thy regard, no more an honoured place Than yonder marble pillar, or the gold
And jewelled wine-cup which thy lips caress. Thou wouldst degrade me in the people’s sight!
Degrade thee, Vashti? Rather do I seek To show my people who are gathered here
How, as the consort of so fair a queen, I feel more pride than as the mighty king: For there be many rulers on the earth,
But only ONE such queen. Come, raise thy veil!
Ay! only ONE such queen! A queen is one Who shares her husband’s greatness and his throne. I am no more than yonder dancing girl
Who struts and smirks before a royal court! But I will loose my veil and loose my tongue! Now listen, sire–my master and my king; And let thy princes and the court give ear! ‘Tis time all heard how Vashti feels her shame.
Shame is no word to couple with thy name! Shame and a spotless woman may not meet, Even in a sentence. Choose another word.
Ay, SHAME, my lord–there is no synonym That can give voice to my ignoble state. To be a thing for eyes to gaze upon,
Yet held an outcast from thy heart and mind; To hear my beauty praised but not my worth; To come and go at Pleasure’s beck and call, While barred from Wisdom’s conclaves! Think ye THAT A noble calling for a noble dame?
Why, any concubine amongst thy train Could play my royal part as well as I –
Were she as fair!
Queen Vashti, art thou MAD?
I would behead another did he dare
To so besmirch thee with comparison.
VASHTI (to the court)
Gaze now your fill! Behold Queen Vashti’s eyes! How large they gleam beneath her inch of brow! How like a great white star, her splendid face Shines through the midnight forest of her hair! And see the crushed pomegranate of her mouth! Observe her arms, her throat, her gleaming breasts, Whereon the royal jewels rise and fall! – And note the crescent curving of her hips, And lovely limbs suggested ‘neath her robes! Gaze, gaze, I say, for these have made her queen! She hath no mind, no heart, no dignity,
Worth royal recognition and regard; But her fair body approbation meets
And whets the sated appetite of kings! Now ye have seen what she was bid to show. The queen hath played her part and begs to go.
Ay, Vashti, go and never more return! Not only hast thou wronged thine own true lord, And mocked and shamed me in the people’s eyes, But thou hast wronged all princes and all men By thy pernicious and rebellious ways.
Queens act and subjects imitate. So let Queen Vashti weigh her conduct and her words, Or be no more called ‘queen!’
I was a princess ere I was a queen,
And worthy of a better fate than this! There lies the crown that made me queen in name! Here stands the woman–wife in name alone! Now, no more queen–nor wife–but woman still – Ay, and a woman strong enough to be
Her own avenger.
THE CHOOSING OF ESTHER
(FROM THE DRAMA OF MIZPAH)
Tell me thy name!
My name, great sire, is Esther.
So thou art Esther? Esther! ’tis a name Breathed into sound as softly as a sigh. A woman’s name should melt upon the lips Like Love’s first kisses, and thy countenance Is fit companion for so sweet a name!
Thou art most kind. I would my name and face Were mine own making and not accident.
Then I might feel elated at thy praise, Where now I feel confusion.
Thou hast wit
As well as beauty, Esther. Both are gems That do embellish woman in man’s sight.
Yet they are gems of second magnitude! Dost THOU possess the one great perfect gem – The matchless jewel of the world called LOVE?
Sire, in the heart of every woman dwells That wondrous perfect gem!
Then, Esther, speak!
And tell me what is LOVE! I fain would know Thy definition of that much-mouthed word, By woman most employed–least understood.
What can a humble Jewish maiden know
That would instruct a warrior and a king? I have but dreamed of love as maidens will While thou hast known its fulness. All the world Loves Great Ahasueras!
All the world
FEARS GREAT Ahasueras! Kings, my child, Are rarely loved as anything but kings.
Love, as I see it in the court and camp, Means seeking royal favour. I would know How love is fashioned in a maiden’s dreams.
Sire, love seeks nothing that kings can bestow. Love is the king of all kings here below; Love makes the monarch but a bashful boy, Love makes the peasant monarch in his joy; Love seeks not place, all places are the same, When lighted by the radiance of love’s flame. Who deems proud love could fawn to power and splendour Hath known not love, but some base-born pretender.
If this be love, I would know more of it. Speak on, fair Esther! What is love beside?
Love is in all things, all things are in love. Love is the earth, the sea, the skies above; Love is the bird, the blossom, and the wind; Love hath a million eyes, yet love is blind; Love is a tempest, awful in its might;
Love is the silence of a moon-lit night; Love is the aim of every human soul;
And he who hath not loved hath missed life’s goal!
But tell me of thyself, of thine own dreams! How wouldst thou love, and how be loved again?
Who most doth love thinks least of love’s return; She is content to feel the passion burn
In her own bosom, and its sacred fire Consumes each selfish purpose and desire. ‘Tis in the giving, love’s best rapture lies, Not in the counting of the things it buys.
Yet, is there not vast anguish and despair In love that finds no answering word or smile?
So radiant is love, it lends a glow
To each dark sorrow and to every woe. To love completely is to part with pain, Nor is there mortal who can love in vain. Love is its own reward, it pays full measure, And in love’s sharpest grief lies subtlest pleasure.
Methinks, a mighty warrior, lord or king Must in thy fancy play the lover’s part; None else could wake such reverential thought.
When woman loves one born of lowly state, Her thought gives crown and sceptre to her mate; Yet be he king, or chief of some great clan, She loves him but as woman loves a man.
Monarch or peasant, ’tis the same, I wis When once she gives him love’s surrendering kiss.
(FROM THE DRAMA OF MIZPAH)
What were thy thoughts, sweet Esther? Something passed Across thy face, that for a moment veiled Thy soul from mine, and left me desolate. Thy thoughts were not of me?
Ay, ALL of thee!
I wondered, if in truth, thou wert content With me–thy choice. Was there no other one Of all who passed before thee at thy court Whose memory pursues thee with regret?
I do confess I much regret that day
And wish I could relive it.
Oh! My lord!
Yea! I regret those hours I wasted on The poor procession that preceded thee.
Hadst thou come first, then all the added wealth
Of one long day of loving thee were mine – A boundless fortune squandered. Though I live To three score years and ten, as I do hope, In wedded love beside thee, that one day Was filched from me and cannot be restored.
And then to think how frightened and abashed I hung outside thy gates from early morn, Not daring to go in and meet thine eyes, Till pitying twilight clothed me in her veil, And evening walked beside me to thy door.
So it was thou, fair thief, who stole that day, And made me poorer, by–how many hours?
Full eight, I think. They seemed a hundred then, And now time flies a hundred times too fast.
Then eight more kisses do I claim from thee, This very hour–first tithes of many due. I shall exact these payments as I will,
And if they be not ready on demand, I’ll lock thee in the prison of my arms, Like this–and take them so–and so–and so!
But kings must think of other things than love And live for other aims than happiness.
I would not drag thee from thy altitude Of mighty ruler and great conqueror
To chain thee by my side.
Would please me better than to conquer earth Without thee, Esther. I have stood on heights And heard the cheers of multitudes below; Have known the loneliness of being great. Now, let me live and love thee, like a man, Forgetting I am king –
I am content.
Content is not the pathway to great deeds. As man, I hold thee higher than all kings; As king, thou must stand higher than all men In other eyes. Let no one say of me:
‘She spoiled his greatness by her littleness; She made a languorous lover of a king,
And silenced war-cries on commanding lips – With honeyed kisses; made her woman’s arms Preferred to armour, and her couch to tents, Until the kingdom, with no guiding hand, Plunged down to ruin.’
Thou wouldst have me go –
So soon thy heart hath wearied?
My heart is bursting with its love for thee! Canst thou not feel its fervour? But great men Need wiser guidance than a woman’s heart. My pride in thee is equal to my love,
And I would have thee greater than thou art – Ay, greater than all other men on earth – Though forced long years to feed my hungry heart On food of memories and wine of tears,
Wert thou but winning glory and renown.
Thou art most noble, Esther; thou art fit To be the consort of a king of kings.
But I have chewed upon ambition’s husks And starved for love through all my manhood’s years; And now the mighty gods have seen it fit To spread love’s banquet and to name thee host, May I not feast my fill? O Esther, take
The tempting nectar of those lips away And give me wine to rouse the brute in me, To make me thirst for blood instead of love! Wine! Wine! I say!
Methinks good music is wine turned to sound. Here comes thy minstrel with an offering Pressed from the ripened fruit of my fond heart. Mine own the words and mine the melody
And may it linger longer in thine ear Than on thy lip would stay the taste of wine. Sing on!
When from the field returning,
Love is a warrior’s yearning,
Love in his heart is burning,
Love is his dream.
Talk not to him of glory,
Speak not of faces gory,
Sing of love’s tender story,
Make it thy theme.
Sing of his lady’s tresses,
Sing of the smile that blesses,
Sing of the sweet caresses,
And yet again
Sing of fair children’s faces,
Sing of the dear home graces,
Sing till the vacant places,
Ring with thy strain.
Yet as the days go speeding,
Shall he arise unheeding
Love songs or words of pleading,
Strong in his might!
Helmet and armour wearing,
Hies he to deeds of daring,
Forth to the battle faring,
Back to the fight.
Sing now of ranks contending,
Sing of loud voices blending,
Sing of great warriors sending
Death to their foes!
Sing of war missiles humming,
Strike into martial drumming,
Sing of great victory coming,
As forth he goes.
Back to the battle faring,
Back into deeds of daring,
Back to the fight.
No less a lover but a greater man,
A better warrior and a nobler king, I will be from this hour for thy dear sake.
God finished woman in the twilight hour And said, ‘To-morrow thou shalt find thy place: Man’s complement, the mother of the race – With love the motive power –
The one compelling power.’
All night she dreamed and wondered. With the light Her lover came–and then she understood
The purpose of her being. Life was good And all the world seemed right –
And nothing was, but right.
She had no wish for any wider sway:
By all the questions of the world unvexed, Supremely loving and superbly sexed,
She passed upon her way –
Her feminine fair way.
But God neglected, when He fashioned man, To fuse the molten splendour of his mind With that sixth sense He gave to womankind. And so He marred His plan –
Ay, marred His own great plan.
She asked so little, and so much she gave, That man grew selfish: and she soon became, To God’s great sorrow and the whole world’s shame, Man’s sweet and patient slave –
His uncomplaining slave.
Yet in the nights (oh! nights so dark and long) She clasped her little children to her breast And wept. And in her anguish of unrest
She thought upon her wrong;
She knew how great her wrong.
And one sad hour, she said unto her heart, ‘Since thou art cause of all my bitter pain, I bid thee abdicate the throne: let brain Rule now, and do his part –
His masterful, strong part.’
She wept no more. By new ambition stirred Her ways led out, to regions strange and vast. Men stood aside and watched, dismayed, aghast, And all the world demurred –
Misjudged her, and demurred.
Still on and up, from sphere to widening sphere, Till thorny paths bloomed with the rose of fame. Who once demurred, now followed with acclaim: The hiss died in the cheer –
The loud applauding cheer.
She stood triumphant in that radiant hour, Man’s mental equal, and competitor.
But ah! the cost! from out the heart of her Had gone love’s motive power –
Love’s all-compelling power.
I dreamed a Voice, of one God-authorised, Cried loudly thro’ the world, ‘Disarm! Disarm!’ And there was consternation in the camps; And men who strutted under braid and lace Beat on their medalled breasts, and wailed, ‘Undone!’ The word was echoed from a thousand hills, And shop and mill, and factory and forge, Where throve the awful industries of death, Hushed into silence. Scrawled upon the doors, The passer read, ‘Peace bids her children starve.’ But foolish women clasped their little sons And wept for joy, not reasoning like men.
Again the Voice commanded: ‘Now go forth And build a world for Progress and for Peace. This work has waited since the earth was shaped; But men were fighting, and they could not toil. The needs of life outnumber needs of death. Leave death with God. Go forth, I say, and build.’
And then a sudden, comprehensive joy
Shone in the eyes of men; and one who thought Only of conquests and of victories
Woke from his gloomy reverie and cried, ‘Ay, come and build! I challenge all to try. And I will make a world more beautiful
Than Eden was before the serpent came.’ And like a running flame on western wilds, Ambition spread from mind to listening mind, And lo! the looms were busy once again,
And all the earth resounded with men’s toil.
Vast palaces of Science graced the world; Their banquet tables spread with feasts of truth For all who hungered. Music kissed the air, Once rent with boom of cannons. Statues gleamed From wooded ways, where ambushed armies hid In times of old. The sea and air were gay With shining sails that soared from land to land. A universal language of the world
Made nations kin, and poverty was known
But as a word marked ‘obsolete,’ like war. The arts were kindled with celestial fire; New poets sang so Homer’s fame grew dim; And brush and chisel gave the wondering race Sublimer treasures than old Greece displayed. Men differed still; fierce argument arose, For men are human in this human sphere;
But unarmed Arbitration stood between And Reason settled in a hundred hours
What War disputed for a hundred years.
Oh, that a Voice, of one God-authorised Might cry to all mankind, Disarm! Disarm!
Once in a time of trouble and of care I dreamed I talked with God about my pain; With sleepland courage, daring to complain Of what I deemed ungracious and unfair.
‘Lord, I have grovelled on my knees in prayer Hour after hour,’ I cried; ‘yet all in vain; No hand leads up to heights I would attain, No path is shown me out of my despair.’
Then answered God: ‘Three things I gave to thee – Clear brain, brave will, and strength of mind and heart, All implements divine, to shape the way. Why shift the burden of thy toil on Me?
Till to the utmost he has done his part With all his might, let no man DARE to pray.’
THE EDICT OF THE SEX
Two thousand years had passed since Christ was born, When suddenly there rose a mighty host
Of women, sweeping to a central goal As many rivers sweep on to the sea.
They came from mountains, valleys, and from coasts, And from all lands, all nations, and all ranks, Speaking all languages, but thinking one. And that one language–Peace.
‘Listen,’ they said,
And straightway was there silence on the earth, For men were dumb with wonder and surprise. ‘Listen, O mighty masters of the world,
And hear the edict of all womankind: Since Christ His new commandment gave to men, LOVE ONE ANOTHER, full two thousand years Have passed away, yet earth is red with blood. The strong male rulers of the world proclaim Their weakness, when we ask that war shall cease. Now will the poor weak women of the world Proclaim their strength, and say that war shall end. Hear, then, our edict: Never from this day Will any woman on the crust of earth
Mother a warrior. We have sworn the oath And will go barren to the waiting tomb
Rather than breed strong sons at war’s behest, Or bring fair daughters into life, to bear The pains of travail, for no end but war. Ay! let the race die out for lack of babes Better a dying race than endless wars!
Better a silent world than noise of guns And clash of armies.
‘Long we asked for peace,
And oft you promised–but to fight again. At last you told us, war must ever be
While men existed, laughing at our plea For the disarmament of all mankind.
Then in our hearts flamed such a mad desire For peace on earth, as lights the world at times With some great conflagration; and it spread From distant land to land, from sea to sea, Until all women thought as with one mind And spoke as with one voice; and now behold! The great Crusading Syndicate of Peace,
Filling all space with one supreme resolve. Give us, O men, your word that war shall end: Disarm the world, and we will give you sons – Sons to construct, and daughters to adorn A beautiful new earth, where there shall be Fewer and finer people, opulence
And opportunity and peace for all.
Until you promise peace no shrill birth-cry Shall sound again upon the aging earth.
We wait your answer.’
And the world was still
While men considered.
At times I am the mother of the world; And mine seem all its sorrows, and its fears. That rose, which in each mother-heart is curled, The rose of pity, opens with my tears, And, waking in the night, I lie and hark To the lone sobbing, and the wild alarms, Of my World-child, a wailing in the dark: The child I fain would shelter in my arms. I call to it (as from another room
A mother calls, what time she cannot go): ‘Sleep well, dear world; Love hides behind this gloom. There is no need for wakefulness or woe, The long, long night is almost past and gone, The day is near.’ And yet the world weeps on.
Again I follow it, throughout the day. With anxious eyes I see it trip and fall, And hurt itself in many a foolish way:
Childlike, unheeding warning word or call. I see it grasp, and grasping, break the toys It cried to own, then toss them on the floor And, breathless, hurry after fancied joys That cease to please, when added to its store. I see the lacerations on its hands,
Made by forbidden tools; but when it weeps, I also weep, as one who understands;
And having been a child, the memory keeps. Ah, my poor world, however wrong thy part, Still is there pity in my mother-heart.
I cried, ‘Dear Angel, lead me to the heights, And spur me to the top.’
The Angel answered, ‘Stop
And set thy house in order; make it fair For absent ones who may be speeding there. Then will we talk of heights.’
I put my house in order. ‘Now lead on!’ The Angel said, ‘Not yet;
Thy garden is beset
By thorns and tares; go weed it, so all those Who come to gaze may find the unvexed rose; Then will we journey on.’
I weeded well my garden. ‘All is done.’ The Angel shook his head.
‘A beggar stands,’ he said,
‘Outside thy gates; till thou hast given heed And soothed his sorrow, and supplied his need, Say not that all is done.’
The beggar left me singing. ‘Now at last – At last the path is clear.’
‘Nay, there is one draws near
Who seeks, like thee, the difficult highway. He lacks thy courage; cheer him through the day Then will we cry, “At last!”‘
I helped my weaker brother. ‘Now the heights; Oh, Guide me, Angel, guide!’
The Presence at my side,
With radiant face, said, ‘Look, where are we now?’ And lo! we stood upon the mountain’s brow – The heights, the shining heights!
ON SEEING ‘THE HOUSE OF JULIA’ AT HERCULANEUM
Not great Vesuvius, in all his ire,
Nor all the centuries, could hide your shame. There is the little window where you came, With eyes that woke the demon of desire, And lips like rose leaves, fashioned out of fire; And from the lava leaps the molten flame Of your old sins. The walls cry out your name – Your face seems rising from the funeral pyre.
There must have dwelt, within your fated town, Full many a virtuous dame, and noble wife Who made your beauty seem as star to sun; How strange the centuries have handed down Your name, fair Julia, of immoral life, And left the others to oblivion.
Master of sweet and loving lore,
Give us the open mind
To know religion means no more,
No less, than being kind.
Give us the comprehensive sight
That sees another’s need;
And let our aim to set things right Prove God inspired our creed.
Give us the soul to know our kin
That dwell in flock and herd,
The voice to fight man’s shameful sin Against the beast and bird.
Give us a heart with love so fraught
For all created things,
That even our unspoken thought
Bears healing on its wings.
Give us religion that will cope
With life’s colossal woes,
And turn a radiant face of hope
On troops of pigmy foes.
Give us the mastery of our fate
In thoughts so warm and white,
They stamp upon the brows of hate
Love’s glorious seal of light.
Give us the strong, courageous faith
That makes of pain a friend,
And calls the secret word of death
‘Beginning,’ and not ‘end.’
WHAT IS RIGHT LIVING?
What is right living? Just to do your best When worst seems easier. To bear the ills Of daily life with patient cheerfulness
Nor waste dear time recounting them. To talk
Of hopeful things when doubt is in the air. To count your blessings often, giving thanks, And to accept your sorrows silently,
Nor question why you suffer. To accept The whole of life as one perfected plan, And welcome each event as part of it.
To work, and love your work; to trust, to pray For larger usefulness and clearer sight. This is right living, pleasing in God’s eyes, Though you be heathen, heretic or Jew.
However inexplicable may seem
Event and circumstance upon this earth, Though favours fall on those whom none esteem, And insult and indifference greet worth; Though poverty repays the life of toil,
And riches spring where idle feet have trod, And storms lay waste the patiently tilled soil – Yet Justice sways the universe of God.
As undisturbed the stately stars remain Beyond the glare of day’s obscuring light, So Justice dwells, though mortal eyes in vain Seek it persistently by reason’s sight. But when, once freed, the illumined soul looks out. Its cry will be, ‘O God, how could I doubt!’
Time looked me in the eyes while passing by The milestone of the year. That piercing gaze Was both an accusation and reproach.
No speech was needed. In a sorrowing look More meaning lies than in complaining words, And silence hurts as keenly as reproof.
Oh, opulent, kind giver of rich hours, How have I used thy benefits! As babes
Unstring a necklace, laughing at the sound Of priceless jewels dropping one by one, So have I laughed while precious moments rolled Into the hidden corners of the past.
And I have let large opportunities
For high endeavour move unheeded by, While little joys and cares absorbed my strength.
And yet, dear Time, set to my credit this: NOT ONE WHITE HOUR HAVE I MADE BLACK WITH HATE, NOR WISHED ONE LIVING CREATURE AUGHT BUT GOOD. Be patient with me. Though the sun slants west, The day has not yet finished, and I feel Necessity for action and resolve
Bear in upon my consciousness. I know The earth’s eternal need of earnest souls, And the great hunger of the world for Love. I know the goal to high achievement lies Through the dull pathway of self-conquest first; And on the stairs of little duties done
We climb to joys that stand thy test. O Time, Be patient with me, and another day,
Perchance, in passing by, thine eyes may smile.
THE WORKER AND THE WORK
In what I do I note the marring flaw, The imperfections of the work I see;
Nor am I one who rather DO than BE, Since its reversal is Creation’s law.
Nay, since there lies a better and a worse, A lesser and a larger, in men’s view,
I would be better than the thing I do, As God is greater than His universe.
He shaped Himself before He shaped one world: A million eons, toiling day and night,
He built Himself to majesty and might, Before the planets into space were hurled.
And when Creation’s early work was done, What crude beginnings out of chaos came – A formless nebula, a wavering flame,
An errant comet, a voracious sun.
And, still unable to perfect His plan, What awful creatures at His touch found birth – Those protoplasmic monsters of the earth, That owned the world before He fashioned Man.
And now, behold the poor unfinished state Of this, His latest masterpiece! Then why, Seeing the flaws in my own work, should I Be troubled that no voice proclaims it great?
Before me lie the cycling rounds of years; With this small earth will die the thing I do: The thing I am, goes journeying onward through A million lives, upon a million spheres.
My work I build, as best I can and may, Knowing all mortal effort ends in dust.
I build myself, not as I may, but must, Knowing, or good, or ill, that self must stay.
Along the ages, out, and on, afar,
Its journey leads, and must perforce be made. Likewise its choice, with things of shame and shade, Or up the path of light, from star to star.
When all these solar systems shall disperse, Perchance this labour, and this self-control, May find reward; and my completed soul
Will fling in space, a little universe.
ART THOU ALIVE?
Art thou alive? Nay, not too soon reply, Tho’ hand, and foot, and lip, and ear, and eye, Respond, and do thy bidding yet may be
Grim death has done his direst work with thee. Life, as God gives it, is a thing apart
From active body and from beating heart. It is the vital spark, the unseen fire,
That moves the mind to reason and aspire; It is the force that bids emotion roll,
In mighty billows from the surging soul.
It is the light that grows from hour to hour, And floods the brain with consciousness of power; It is the spirit dominating all,
And reaching God with its imperious call, Until the shining glory of His face
Illuminates each sorrowful, dark place;
It is the truth that sets the bondsman free, Knowing he will be what he wills to be.
With its unburied dead the earth is sad. Art thou alive? proclaim it and be glad. Perchance the dead may hear thee and arise, Knowing they live, and HERE is Paradise.
I love this age of energy and force,
Expectantly I greet each pregnant hour; Emerging from the all-creative source,
Supreme with promise, imminent with power. The strident whistle and the clanging bell, The noise of gongs, the rush of motored things Are but the prophet voices which foretell A time when thought may use unfettered wings.
Too long the drudgery of earth has been A barrier ‘twixt man and his own mind. Remove the stone, and lo! the Christ within; For He is there, and who so seeks shall find. The Great Inventor is the Modern Priest. He paves the pathway to a higher goal. Once from the grind of endless toil released Man will explore the kingdom of his soul.
And all this restless rush, this strain and strife, This noise and glare is but the fanfarade That ushers in the more majestic life
Where faith shall walk with science, unafraid. I feel the strong vibrations of the earth, I sense the coming of an hour sublime, And bless the star that watched above my birth And let me live in this important time.
Unto each mortal who comes to earth
A ladder is given by God, at birth, And up this ladder the soul must go,
Step by step, from the valley below; Step by step, to the centre of space,
On this ladder of lives, to the Starting Place.
In time departed (which yet endures)
I shaped my ladder, and you shaped yours. Whatever they are–they are what we made: A ladder of light, or a ladder of shade, A ladder of love, or a hateful thing,
A ladder of strength, or a wavering string. A ladder of gold, or a ladder of straw,
Each is the ladder of righteous law.
We flung them away at the call of death, We took them again with the next life breath. For a keeper stands by the great birth gates; As each soul passes, its ladder waits.
Though mine be narrow, and yours be broad, On my ladder alone can I climb to God.
On your ladder alone can your feet ascend, For none may borrow, and none may lend.
If toil and trouble and pain are found, Twisted and corded, to form each round,
If rusted iron or mouldering wood
Is the fragile frame, you must make it good. You must build it over and fashion it strong, Though the task be hard as your life is long; For up this ladder the pathway leads
To earthly pleasures and spirit needs; And all that may come in another way
Shall be but illusion, and will not stay.
In useless effort, then, waste no time; Rebuild your ladder, and climb and climb.
WHO IS A CHRISTIAN?
Who is a Christian in this Christian land Of many churches and of lofty spires?
Not he who sits in soft upholstered pews Bought by the profits of unholy greed,
And looks devotion, while he thinks of gain. Not he who sends petitions from the lips That lie to-morrow in the street and mart. Not he who fattens on another’s toil,
And flings his unearned riches to the poor, Or aids the heathen with a lessened wage, And builds cathedrals with an increased rent.
Christ, with Thy great, sweet, simple creed of love, How must Thou weary of Earth’s ‘Christian’ clans, Who preach salvation through Thy saving blood While planning slaughter of their fellow men. Who is a Christian? It is one whose life Is built on love, on kindness and on faith; Who holds his brother as his other self; Who toils for justice, equity and PEACE, And hides no aim or purpose in his heart That will not chord with universal good.
Though he be pagan, heretic or Jew,
That man is Christian and beloved of Christ.
All your wonderful inventions,
All your houses vast and tall,
All your great gun-fronted vessels, Every fort and every wall,
With the passing of the ages,
They shall pass and they shall fall.
As you sit among the idols
That your avarice gave birth,
As you count the hoarded treasures
That you think of priceless worth, Time is digging tombs to hide them
In the bosom of the earth.
There shall come a great convulsion
Or a rushing tidal wave,
Or a sound of mighty thunders
From a subterranean cave,
And a boasting world’s possessions
Shall be buried in one grave.
From the Centuries of Silence
We are bringing back again
Buried vase and bust and column
And the gods they worshipped then, In the strange unmentioned cities
Built by prehistoric men.
Did they steal, and lie, and slaughter? Did they steep their souls in shame?
Did they sell eternal virtues
Just to win a passing fame?
Did they give the gold of honour
For the tinsel of a name?
We are hurrying all together
Toward the silence and the night; There is nothing worth the seeking
But the sun-kissed moral height – There is nothing worth the doing
But the doing of the RIGHT.
I asked the rock beside the road what joy existence lent. It answered, ‘For a million years my heart has been content.’
I asked the truffle-seeking swine, as rooting by he went, ‘What is the keynote of your life?’ He grunted out, ‘Content.’
I asked a slave, who toiled and sung, just what his singing meant. He plodded on his changeless way, and said, ‘I am content.’
I asked a plutocrat of greed, on what his thoughts were bent. He chinked the silver in his purse, and said, ‘I am content.’
I asked the mighty forest tree from whence its force was sent. Its thousand branches spoke as one, and said, ‘From discontent.’
I asked the message speeding on, by what great law was rent God’s secret from the waves of space. It said, ‘From discontent.’
I asked the marble, where the works of God and man were blent, What brought the statue from the block. It answered, ‘Discontent.’
I asked an Angel, looking down on earth with gaze intent, How man should rise to larger growth. Quoth he, ‘Through discontent.’