The pendulum

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(In Edgar Allan Poe’s story, ‘The Pit and the Pendulum,’ the victim is bound hand and foot, face upturned to a huge, knife-edged pendulum which swings back and forth across his body, the blade dropping closer to his heart at each swing.)

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Bound hand and foot in the pit I lie,
And the wall about me is strong and high;
Stronger and higher it grows each day,
With maximum labour and minimum pay;
And there is no ladder whereon to climb
To a fairer world and a brighter time.
There is no ladder, there is no rope,
But the devil of greed has given a hope.
He swings before me the pendulum - Vice;
I know its purpose and know its price,
And the world’s good people all know it, too,
And much they chatter and little they do.
I have sent up my cry to the hosts of men
Over and over and over again:
But should I cry once to the devil, ah, he
Would hurry to answer and set me free.
For Virtue to Virtue must ever call thrice,
But once brings an answer when Virtue calls Vice.

Bound hand and foot in the pit I lie
While the pendulum swings and the days go by.

from Poems of Optimism by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1919)

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