High Noon

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by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

   Time’s finger on the dial of my life
   Points to high noon! and yet the half-spent day
   Leaves less than half remaining, for the dark,
   Bleak shadows of the grave engulf the end.
   To those who burn the candle to the stick,
   The sputtering socket yields but little light.
   Long life is sadder than an early death.
   We cannot count on ravelled threads of age
   Whereof to weave a fabric. We must use
   The warp and woof the ready present yields
   And toil while daylight lasts. When I bethink
   How brief the past, the future, still more brief
   Calls on to action, action! Not for me
   Is time for retrospection or for dreams,
   Not time for self-laudation or remorse.
   Have I done nobly? Then I must not let
   Dead yesterday unborn to-morrow shame.
   Have I done wrong? Well, let the bitter taste
   Of fruit that turned to ashes on my lip
   Be my reminder in temptation’s hour,
   And keep me silent when I would condemn.
   Sometimes it takes the acid of a sin
   To cleanse the clouded windows of our souls
   So pity may shine through them.

         Looking back,
   My faults and errors seem like stepping-stones
   That led the way to knowledge of the truth
   And made me value virtue; sorrows shine
   In rainbow colours o’er the gulf of years,
   Where lie forgotten pleasures.

         Looking forth,
   Out to the western sky still bright with noon,
   I feel well spurred and booted for the strife
   That ends not till Nirvana is attained.

   Battling with fate, with men, and with myself,
   Up the steep summit of my life’s forenoon,
   Three things I learned, three things of precious worth,
   To guide and help me down the western slope.
   I have learned how to pray, and toil, and save:
   To pray for courage to receive what comes,
   Knowing what comes to be divinely sent;
   To toil for universal good, since thus
   And only thus can good come unto me;
   To save, by giving whatsoe’er I have
   To those who have not—this alone is gain.

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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