A Vision

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by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

My soul beheld a vision of the Master:
   Methought He stood with grieved and questioning eyes,
Where Freedom drove its chariot to disaster
   And toilers heard, unheeding, toilers’ cries.
Where man withheld God’s bounties from his neighbour,
   And fertile fields were sterilised by greed;
Where Labour’s hand was lifted against labour,
   And suffering serfs to despots turned when freed.

Majestic rose tall steeple after steeple;
   Imperious bells called worshippers to prayer;
But as they passed, the faces of the people
   Were marred by envy, anger and despair.
‘Christ the Redeemer of the world has risen,
   Peace and good will,’ so rang the major strain;
But forth from sweat-shops, tenement and prison
   Wailed minor protests, redolent with pain.

Methought about the Master, all unseeing,
   Fought desperate hosts of striking clan with clan,
Their primal purpose, meant for labour’s freeing,
   Sunk in vindictive hate of man for man.
Pretentious Wealth, in unearned robes of beauty,
   Flung Want a pittance from her bulging purse,
While ill-paid Toil went on dull rounds of duty,
   Hell in her heart, and on her lips a curse.

Then spoke the Christ (so wondrous was my vision)
   (Deep, deep, His voice, with sorrow’s cadence fraught):
‘This world to-day would be a realm elysian
   Had my disciples lived the love I taught.
Un-Christlike is the Christian creed men fashion
   Who kneel to worship, and who rise to slay.
Profane pretenders of my holy Passion,
   Ye nail Me newly to the cross each day.’

from Poems of Optimism by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1919)

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