The Crimes of Peace

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by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Musing upon the tragedies of earth,
Of each new horror which each hour gives birth,
Of sins that scar and cruelties that blight
Life's little season, meant for man's delight,
Methought those monstrous and repellent crimes
Which hate engenders in war-heated times,
To God's great heart bring not so much despair
As other sins which flourish everywhere
And in all times--bold sins, bare-faced and proud,
Unchecked by college, and by Church allowed,
Lifting their lusty heads like ugly weeds
Above wise precepts and religious creeds,
And growing rank in prosperous days of peace.
Think you the evils of this world would cease
With war's cessation?
      If God's eyes know tears,
Methinks He weeps more for the wasted years
And the lost meaning of this earthly life -
This big, brief life--than over bloody strife.
Yea; there are mean, lean sins God must abhor
More than the fatted, blood-drunk monster, War.
Looking from His place, looking from His high place among the stars,
God saw a peaceful land -
A land of fertile fields and golden harvests--and great cities whose
innumerable spires pierced the vault of heaven, like bayonets of an
invading army.
And God said, speaking unto Himself aloud, God said:
'Peace and power and plenty have I given unto this land; and those
tall steeples are monuments to Me.
Now let My people reveal themselves, that I may see their works,
done in My name in a fertile land of peace.
I will withdraw Mine eyes from other worlds that I may behold them,
that I may behold these people to whom I sent Christ--they whose
innumerable spires pierce My blue vault like bayonets.'
God saw the restless, idle rich in club and cabaret,
Meat-gorged, wine-filled, they played and preened and danced till
dawn o' day;
They played at sports; they played at love; they played at being
gay.
They were but empty, silk-clad shells; their souls had leaked away.
He saw the sweat-shop and the mill where little children toiled,
The sunless rooms where mothers slaved and unborn souls were
spoiled;
While those whose greedy, selfish lives had thrust the toilers
there,
He saw whirled down broad avenues, clothed all with raiment fair.

He saw in homes made beautiful with all that gold can give
Unhappy souls at odds with life, not knowing how to live.
He saw fair, pampered women turn from motherhood's sweet joy,
Obsessed with methods to prevent or mania to destroy.
He saw men sell their souls to vice and avarice and greed;
He heard race quarrelling with race and creed decrying creed;
And shameful wealth and waste He saw, and shameful want and need.

He saw bold little children come from church and schoolroom, blind
To suffering of lesser things, unfeeling and unkind;
He heard them taunt the poor, and tease their furred and feathered
kin;
And no voice spake from home or church to tell them this was sin.
He heard the cry of wounded things, the wasteful gun's report;
He saw the morbid craze to kill, which Christian men called sport.

And then God hid His grieving face behind a wall of cloud,
On earth they said, 'A thunder-storm'--but God had wept aloud.

from Hello, Boys! by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1919)

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