I saw them beautiful, in fair array upon Commencement Day;
Lissome and lovely, radiant and sweet
As cultured roses, brought to their estate
By careful training. Finished and complete
(As teachers calculate).
They passed in maiden grace along the aisle,
Leaving the chaste white sunlight of a smile
Upon the gazing throng.
Musing I thought upon their place as mothers of the race.
Oh there are many actors who can play
Greatly, great parts; but rare indeed the soul
Who can be great when cast for some small rôle;
Yet that is what the world most needs; big hearts
That will shine forth and glorify poor parts
In this strange drama, Life! Do they,
Who in full dress-rehearsal pass to-day
Before admiring eyes, hold in their store
Those fine high principles which keep old Earth
From being only earth; and make men more
Than just mere men? How will they prove their worth
Of years of study? Will they walk abroad
Decked with the plumage of dead bards of God,
The glorious birds? And shall the lamb unborn
Be slain on altars of their vanity?
To some frail sister who has missed the way
Will they give Christ's compassion, or man's scorn;
And will clean manhood, linked with honest love,
The victor prove,
When riches, gained by greed dispute the claim?
Will they guard well a husband's home and name,
Or lean down from their altitudes to hear
The voice of flattery speak in the ear
Those lying platitudes which men repeat
To listening Self-Conceit?
Musing I thought upon their places as mothers of the race,
As beautiful they passed in maiden grace.
Poems of Problems. By Ella Wheeler Wilcox
London : Gay and Hancock, 1914.
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