The Poet’s Theme
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
What is the explanation of the strange silence of American poets
concerning American triumphs on sea and land?
Why should the poet of these pregnant times
Be asked to sing of war’s unholy crimes?
To laud and eulogize the trade which thrives
On horrid holocausts of human lives?
Man was a fighting beast when earth was young,
And war the only theme when Homer sung.
’Twixt might and might the equal contest lay,
Not so the battles of our modern day.
Too often now the conquering hero struts
A Gulliver among the Liliputs.
Success no longer rests on skill or fate,
But on the movements of a syndicate.
Of old men fought and deemed it right and just.
To-day the warrior fights because he must,
And in his secret soul feels shame because
He desecrates the higher manhood’s laws
Oh! there are worthier themes for poet’s pen
In this great hour, than bloody deeds of men
Or triumphs of one hero (though he be
Deserving song for his humility):
The rights of many—not the worth of one;
The coming issues—not the battle done;
The awful opulence, and awful need;
The rise of brotherhood—the fall of greed,
The soul of man replete with God’s own force,
The call “to heights,” and not the cry “to horse,”—
Are there not better themes in this great age
For pen of poet, or for voice of sage
Than those old tales of killing? Song is dumb
Only that greater song in time may come.
When comes the bard, he whom the world waits for,
He will not sing of War.
- by Ella Wheeler Wilcox