The Voice

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by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

   I dreamed a Voice, of one God-authorised,
   Cried loudly thro’ the world, ‘Disarm! Disarm!’
   And there was consternation in the camps;
   And men who strutted under braid and lace
   Beat on their medalled breasts, and wailed, ‘Undone!’
   The word was echoed from a thousand hills,
   And shop and mill, and factory and forge,
   Where throve the awful industries of death,
   Hushed into silence. Scrawled upon the doors,
   The passer read, ‘Peace bids her children starve.’
   But foolish women clasped their little sons
   And wept for joy, not reasoning like men.

   Again the Voice commanded: ‘Now go forth
   And build a world for Progress and for Peace.
   This work has waited since the earth was shaped;
   But men were fighting, and they could not toil.
   The needs of life outnumber needs of death.
   Leave death with God. Go forth, I say, and build.’

   And then a sudden, comprehensive joy
   Shone in the eyes of men; and one who thought
   Only of conquests and of victories
   Woke from his gloomy reverie and cried,
   ‘Ay, come and build! I challenge all to try.
   And I will make a world more beautiful
   Than Eden was before the serpent came.’
   And like a running flame on western wilds,
   Ambition spread from mind to listening mind,
   And lo! the looms were busy once again,
   And all the earth resounded with men’s toil.

   Vast palaces of Science graced the world;
   Their banquet tables spread with feasts of truth
   For all who hungered. Music kissed the air,
   Once rent with boom of cannons. Statues gleamed
   From wooded ways, where ambushed armies hid
   In times of old. The sea and air were gay
   With shining sails that soared from land to land.
   A universal language of the world
   Made nations kin, and poverty was known

   But as a word marked ‘obsolete,’ like war.
   The arts were kindled with celestial fire;
   New poets sang so Homer’s fame grew dim;
   And brush and chisel gave the wondering race
   Sublimer treasures than old Greece displayed.
   Men differed still; fierce argument arose,
   For men are human in this human sphere;
   But unarmed Arbitration stood between
   And Reason settled in a hundred hours
   What War disputed for a hundred years.

   Oh, that a Voice, of one God-authorised
   Might cry to all mankind, Disarm! Disarm!

 

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