What they saw

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by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Sad man, Sad man, tell me, pray,
What did you see to-day?

I saw the unloved and unhappy old, waiting for slow delinquent death to come.
Pale little children toiling for the rich, in rooms where sunlight is ashamed to go.
The awful alms-house, where the living dead rot slowly in their hideous open graves.
And there were shameful things;
Soldiers and forts, and industries of death, and devil ships, and loud-winged devil birds,
All bent on slaughter and destruction. These and yet more shameful things mine eyes beheld.
Old men upon lascivious conquest bent, and young men living with no thought of God;
And half clothed women puffing at a weed, aping the vices of the underworld -
Engrossed in shallow pleasures and intent on being barren wives.
These things I saw.
(How God must loathe His earth.)

Glad man, Glad man, tell me, pray,
What did you see to-day?

I saw an aged couple, in whose eyes
Shone that deep light of mingled love and faith
Which makes the earth one room of Paradise,
And leaves no sting in death.

I saw fair regiments of children pour,
Rank after rank, out of the schoolroom door
By Progress mobilised. They seemed to say
‘Let ignorance make way;
We are the heralds of a better day.’

I saw the college and the church that stood
For all things sane and good.

I saw God’s helpers in the shop and slum
Blazing a path for health and hope to come;
And men and women of large soul and mind
Absorbed in toil for bettering their kind.

Then, too, I saw life’s sweetest sight and best -
Pure mothers with dear babies at the breast,
These things I saw.
(How God must love His earth.)

 
from Poems of Optimism by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1919)

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