The Englishman and Other Poems Part 9

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The Englishman and Other Poems is a Webnovel created by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
This lightnovel is currently completed.


A waft of perfume from a bit of lace Moved lightly by a pa.s.sing woman’s hand; And on the common street, a sensuous grace Shone suddenly from some lost time and land.

Tall structures changed to dome and parapet; The stern-faced Church an oracle became; In sheltered alcoves marble busts were set; And on the wall frail Lais wrote her name.

Phryne before her judges stood at bay, Fearing the rigour of Athenian laws; Till Hyperides tore her cloak away, And bade her splendid beauty plead its cause.

Great Alexander walking in the dusk, Dreamed of the hour when Greek with Greek should meet; From Thais’ window attar breathed, and musk: His footsteps went no farther down the street.

Faint and more faint the pungent perfume grew; Of wall and parapet remained no trace.

Temple and statue vanished from the view: The city street again was commonplace.


If you listen you will hear, from east to west, Growing sounds of discontent and deep unrest.

It is just the progress-driven plough of G.o.d, Tearing up the well-worn custom-bounded sod; Shaping out each old tradition-trodden track Into furrows, fertile furrows, rich and black.

Oh, what harvests they will yield When they widen to a field.

They will widen, they will broaden, day by day, As the Progress-driven plough keeps on its way.

It will riddle all the ancient roads that lead Into palaces of selfishness and greed; It will tear away the almshouse and the slum That the little homes and garden plots may come.

Yes, the gardens green and sweet Shall replace the stony street.

Let the wise man hear the menace that is blent In this ever-growing sound of discontent.

Let him hear the rising clamour of the race That the few shall yield the many larger s.p.a.ce.

For the crucial hour is coming when the soil Must be given to, or taken back by Toil Oh, that mighty plough of G.o.d; Hear it breaking through the sod!


G.o.d, what a joy it is to plant a tree, And from the sallow earth to watch it rise, Lifting its emerald branches to the skies In silent adoration; and to see Its strength and glory waxing with each spring.

Yes, ’tis a goodly, and a gladsome thing To plant a tree.

Nature has many marvels; but a tree Seems more than marvellous. It is divine.

So generous, so tender, so benign.

Not garrulous like the rivers; and yet free In pleasant converse with the winds and birds; Oh! privilege beyond explaining words, To plant a tree.

Rocks are majestic; but, unlike a tree, They stand aloof, and silent. In the roar Of ocean billows breaking on the sh.o.r.e There sounds the voice of turmoil. But a tree Speaks ever of companionship and rest.

Yea, of all righteous acts, this, this is best, To plant a tree.

There is an oak (oh! how I love that tree) Which has been thriving for a hundred years; Each day I send my blessing through the spheres To one who gave this triple boon to me, Of growing beauty, singing birds, and shade.

Wouldst thou win laurels that shall never fade?

Go plant a tree.


How blind is he who prays that G.o.d will send All pain from earth. Pain has its use and place; Its ministry of holiness and grace.

The darker tones upon the canvas blend With light and colour; and their shadows lend The painting half its dignity. Efface The sombre background, and you lose all trace Of that perfection which is true art’s trend.

Life is an artist seeking to reveal G.o.d’s majesty and beauty in each soul.

If from the palette mortal man could steal The precious pigment, pain, why then the scroll Would glare with colours meaningless and bright, Or show an empty canvas, blurred with light.


In Memory’s Mansion are wonderful rooms, And I wander about them at will; And I pause at the cas.e.m.e.nts, where boxes of blooms Are sending sweet scents o’er the sill.

I lean from a window that looks on a lawn: From a turret that looks on the wave.

But I draw down the shade, when I see on some glade, A stone standing guard, by a grave.

To Memory’s attic I clambered one day, When the roof was resounding with rain.

And there, among relics long hidden away, I rummaged with heart-ache and pain.

A hope long surrendered and covered with dust, A pastime, out-grown, and forgot, And a fragment of love, all corroded with rust, Were lying heaped up in one spot.

And there on the floor of that garret was tossed A friendship too fragile to last, With pieces of dearly bought pleasures, that cost Vast fortunes of pain in the past.

A fabric of pa.s.sion, once ardent and bright, As tropical sunsets in spring, Was spread out before me–a terrible sight – A moth-eaten rag of a thing.

Then down the steep stairway I hurriedly went, And into fair chambers below.

But the mansion seemed filled with the old attic scent, Wherever my footsteps would go.

Though in Memory’s House I still wander full oft, No more to the garret I climb; And I leave all the rubbish heaped there in the loft To the hands of the Housekeeper, Time.


They tell me new methods now govern the Muses, The modes of expression have changed with the times; That low is the rank of the poet who uses The old-fashioned verse with intentional rhymes.

And quite out of date, too, is rhythmical metre; The critics declare it an insult to art.

But oh! the sweet swing of it, oh! the clear ring of it, Oh the great pulse of it, right from the heart, Art or no art.

I sat by the side of that old poet, Ocean, And counted the billows that broke on the rocks; The tide lilted in with a rhythmical motion; The sea-gulls dipped downward in time-keeping flocks.

I watched while a giant wave gathered its forces, And then on the gray granite precipice burst; And I knew as I counted, while other waves mounted, I knew the tenth billow would rhyme with the first.

Below in the village a church bell was chiming, And back in the woodland a little bird sang; And, doubt it who will, yet those two sounds were rhyming, As out o’er the hill-tops they echoed and rang.

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