An Old Song

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by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Two roadways lead from this land to That, and one is the road of Prayer;
And one is the road of Old-time Songs, and every note is a stair.

A shabby old man with a music machine on the sordid city street;
But suddenly earth seemed Arcady, and life grew young and sweet.
For the city street fled, and the world was green, and a little house stood by the sea;
And she came singing a martial air (she who was peace itself);
She brought back with her the old, strange charm, of mingled pathos and glee -

With her eyes of a child in a woman’s face, and her soul of a saint in an elf.
She had been gone for many a year. They tell us it is not far -
That silent place where the dear ones go, but it might as well be a star.
Yes, it might as well be a distant star as a beautiful Near-by Land,
If we hear no voice, and see no face, and feel no touch of a hand.

But now she had come, for I saw her there, and she looked so blithe and young;
(Not white and still, as I saw her last) and the rose that she wore was red;
And her voice soared up in a bird-like trill, at the end of the song she sung,
And she mimicked a soldier’s warlike stride, and tossed back her dear little head.

She had gone for many a year, and never came back before;
But I think she dwells in a Near-by Land, since song jarred open the door;
Yes, I think it is surely a Near-by Land, that place where our loved ones are,
For the song would never have reached her ear had she been on a distant star.

Two roadways lead from this land to That, and one is the road of Prayer,
And one is the road of Old-time Songs, and every note is a stair.

 
from Poems of Optimism by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1919)

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