Thoughts on leaving Japan

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by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

   A changing medley of insistent sounds,
   Like broken airs, played on a Samisen,
   Pursues me, as the waves blot out the shore.
   The trot of wooden heels; the warning cry
   Of patient runners; laughter and strange words
   Of children, children, children everywhere:
   The clap of reverent hands, before some shrine;
   And over all the haunting temple bells,
   Waking, in silent chambers of the soul,
   Dim memories of long-forgotten lives.

   But oh! the sorrow of the undertone;
   The wail of hopeless weeping in the dawn
   From lips that smiled through gilded bars at night.

   Brave little people, of large aims, you bow
   Too often, and too low before the Past;
   You sit too long in worship of the dead.
   Yet have you risen, open eyed, to greet
   The great material Present. Now salute
   The greater Future, blazing its bold trail
   Through old traditions. Leave your dead to sleep
   In quiet peace with God. Let your concern
   Be with the living, and the yet unborn;
   Bestow on them your thoughts, and waste no time
   In costly honours to insensate dust.
   Unlock the doors of usefulness, and lead
   Your lovely daughters forth to larger fields,
   Away from jungles of the ancient sin.

   For oh! the sorrow of that undertone,
   The wail of hopeless weeping in the dawn
   From lips that smiled through gilded bars at night.

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