The shadows of a winter night were falling,
    The snows were drifting in my cottage door--
And loud the voices of the winds were calling,
    When there came a stranger, lone, despised, and poor!

Came to my glowing hearth, all humbly pleading
    For food and shelter till the day should dawn--
But to his every word I stood unheeding,
    And turned him forth and bade him wander on.

I have six little ones to guard from danger;
    I have a pillow for each precious head;
But nought to waste upon a beggared stranger--
    And "charity begins at home," I said.

All fierce and loud the winter wind was groaning,
    Like some lost spirit, doomed to death it seemed;
While at some door it made its ceaseless moaning,
    I sought my pillow, and I slept and dreamed.

I dreamed I stood at Heaven's gate entreating,
    Weeping and wailing for the other side;
While in the gloom I stood, all wildly beating,
    Begging the angel guard to open wide.

At length I heard the pearly hinges turning,
    And saw the glories that no tongue can tell.
Before me all the hues of Heaven burning,
    Behind me all the gloom of death and hell.

I strove to enter, but a voice like thunder,
    Cried "Come no nearer, oh! thou soul of sin."
And I shrank down in awful fear and wonder,
    For I had thought to enter boldly in.

Again the voice cried, "When in woe and anguish,
    I sought a shelter at thy glowing hearth,
Thou turned me out, unclothed, unfed to languish,
    And wander wearily upon the earth.

"Depart from here, thou selfish sinful mortal,
    On heaven's perfect face, a stain and blot;
For never can'st thou cross the shining portal,
    Ye knew not me and now I know ye not."

Poems of reflection. By Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
Chicago, M.A. Donohue & company [c1905].

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