Read at the Benefit of Clara Morris
|Read at the Benefit of Clara Morris
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
|From Poems of Experience (1917)|
The Radiant Rulers of Mystic Regions
Where souls of artists are fitted for birth
Gathered together their lovely legions
And fashioned a woman to shine on earth.
They bathed her in splendour,
They made her tender,
They gave her a nature both sweet and wild;
They gave her emotions like storm-stirred oceans,
And they gave her the heart of a little child.
These Radiant Rulers (who are not human
Nor yet divine like the gods above)
Poured all their gifts in the soul of woman,
That fragile vessel meant only for love.
Still more they taught her,
Still more they brought her,
Till they gave her the world for a harp one day:
And they bade her string it,
They bade her ring it,
While the stars all wondered to hear her play.
She touched the strings in a master fashion,
She uttered the cry of a world’s despair:
Its long hid secret, its pent-up passion,
She gave to the winds in a vibrant air.
For oh! the heart of her,
That was the art of her.
Great with the feeling that makes men kin.
Art all uncoachable,
Fragrance and flame from the spirit within.
The earth turns ever an ear unheeding
To the sorrows of art, as it cries ‘encore.’
And she played on the harp till her hands were bleeding,
And her brow was bruised by the laurels she wore.
She knew the trend of it,
She knew the end of it -
Men heard the music and men felt the thrill.
Bound to the altar
Of art, could she falter?
Then came a silence - the music was still.
And yet in the echoes we seem to hear it;
In waves unbroken it circles the earth:
And we catch in the light of her dauntless spirit
A gleam from the centre that gave her birth.
Still is the fame of her
Felt in the name of her -
But low lies the harp that once thrilled to her strain;
No hand has taken it,
No hand can waken it -
For the soul of her art was her secret of pain.