A SIGN-BOARD.

I will paint you a sign, rumseller,
   And hang it above your door;
A truer and better sign-board
   Than ever you had before.
I will paint with the skill of a master,
   And many shall pause to see
This wonderful piece of painting,
   So like the reality.

I will paint yourself, rumseller,
   As you wait for that fair young boy,
Just in the morn of manhood,
   A mother's pride and joy.
He has no thought of stopping,
   But you greet him with a smile,
And you seem so blithe and friendly
   That he pauses to chat awhile.

I will paint your again, rumseller,
   I will paint you as you stand
With a foaming glass of liquor,
   Holding in either hand.
He wavers, but you urge him:
   "Drink! pledge me just this one!"
And he lifts the glass and drains it,
   And the hellish work is done.

And next I will paint a drunkard:
   Only a year has flown,
But into this loathsome creature
   The fair young boy has grown.
The work was quick and rapid:
   I will paint him as he lies,
In a torpid, drunken slumber,
   Under the winter skies.

I will paint the form of the mother,
   As she kneels at her darling's side--
Her beautiful boy, that was dearer
   Than all of the world beside.
I will paint the shape of a coffin
   Labelled with one word "Lost."
I will paint all this, rumseller,
   And paint it free of cost.

The sin, and the shame and sorrow,
   The crime and sin and woe,
That is born there in your rumshop,
   No hand can paint, you know;
But I'll paint you a sign, rumseller,
   And many shall pause to view
This wonderful swinging sign-board,
   So terribly, fearfully true.

Drops of Water: Poems by Ella Wheeler
New York : The National Temperance Society and Publication House, 1872.


Back to Poem Index