A Ballade of the Unborn Dead
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
They walked the valley of the dead;
Lit by a weird half light;
No sound they made, no word they said;
And they were pale with fright.
Then suddenly from unseen places came
Loud laughter, that was like a whip of flame.
They looked, and saw, beyond, above,
A land where wronged souls wait;
(Those spirits called to earth by love,
And driven back by hate).
And each one stood in anguish dumb and wild,
As she beheld the phantom of her child.
Yea, saw the soul her wish had hurled
Out into night and death;
Before it reached the Mother world,
Or drew its natal breath.
And terrified, each hid her face and fled
Beyond the presence of her unborn dead.
And God’s Great Angel, who provides
Souls for our mortal land,
Laughed, with the laughter that derides,
At that fast fleeing band
Of self-made barren women of the earth.
(Hell has no curse that withers like such mirth.)
‘O Angel, tell us who were they,
That down below us fared;
Those shapes with faces strained and grey,
And eyes that stared and stared;
Something there was about them, gave us fear;
Yet are we lonely, now they are not here.’
Thus spake the spectral children; thus
The Angel made reply:
‘They have no part or share with us;
They were but passers-by.’
‘But may we pray for them?’ the phantoms plead.
‘Yea, for they need your prayers,’ the Angel said.
They went upon their lonely way;
(Far, far from Paradise);
Their path was lit with one wan ray
From ghostly children’s eyes;
The little children who were never born;
And as they passed, the Angel laughed in scorn.