The House of Life

All wondering and eager-eyed, within her portico,
I made my plea to Hostess Life, one morning long ago.

"Pray show me this great house of thine, nor close a single door;
But let me wander where I will, and climb from floor to floor,

"For many rooms, and curious things; and treasures great and small,
Here in this spacious mansion lie, and I would see them all."

Then Hostess Life turned silently, her searching gaze on me,
And with no word she reached her hand and offered up the key.

It opened first the door of Hope, and long I lingered there;
Until I spied the Room of Dreams, just higher by a stair.

And then a door, whereon the one word "Happiness" was writ;
But when I tried the little key I could not make it fit.

It turned the lock of Pleasure's room, wherein all seemed so bright,
But after Ihad stayed a while it somehow lost its light.

And wandering down a lonely hall I came upon a room
Marked "Duty," and I entered it, to lose myself in gloom.

Along the shadowy walls I groped my weary way about,
And found that from dull Duty's room the door of Toil led out.

It led out to another door, whereon a crimson stain
Made sullenly, against the dark, the words, "The Room of Pain."

But oh, the light, the light, the light, that spilled down from above
And upward wound the stairs of faith, right to the Tower of Love.

And when I came forth from that place I tried the little key,
And lo! the door of Happiness swung open wide and free.

By Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Cosmopolitan 45 (October 1908): 563.

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