In the silent midnight watches,
When the earth was clothed in gloom,
And the grim and awful darkness
Crept unbidden to my room--
On the solemn, deathly stillness
Of the night, there broke a sound,
Like ten million wailing voices
Crying loudly from the ground.
From ten million graves came voices,
East and West, and North and South,
Leagues apart, and yet together
Spake they, e'en as with one mouth:
"Men and women! men and women!"
Cried these voices from the ground,
And the very earth was shaken
With the strange and awful sound--
"Ye who weep in selfish sorrow,
Ye who laugh in selfish mirth,
Hark! and listen for a moment
To the voices from the earth:
Wake and listen! ye who slumber,
Pause and listen! ye who feast,
To the warning of the voices
From the graves in West and East.
"We, the victims of a demon,
We, who one, and each, and all,
Can cry out before high heaven,
'We are slain by alcohol!'--
We would warn you, youths and maidens,
From the path that we have trod--
From the path that leads to ruin,
And away from peace and God.
"We, the millions who have fallen,
Warn you from the ruddy glow
Of the wine in silver goblets,
For destruction lies below.
Wine and gin, and rum and brandy,
Whiskey, cider, ale, and beer,
These have slain us and destroyed us--
These the foes that brought us here.
"'You are safe,' you say. Ah heaven!
So we said, and drank, and died.
'We are safe!' we proudly boasted,
Yet we sank down in the tide.
There is never any safety
From the snares of alcohol
For the youth who looks on liquor,
Tastes or touches it at all.
"We beseech you, men and women,
Fathers, mothers, sons, and wives,
To arise, and slay the demon
That is threatening dear ones' lives!
Do not preach of moderation
To your children; for, alas!
There is not a foe more subtle
Than the fateful 'social glass.'
"Thoughtless mother, wife, or sister,
Dash that poison cup away!
He, the husband, son, or brother
Who so gaily sips to-day,
May to-morrow stagger homeward,
Jeered and scorned by sober men.
Would you smile upon him proudly--
Would you say, 'I did it,' then?
"Ah! a vast and mighty number
Of the drunkards in all lands
Take the first step to destruction
Led by white and fragile hands.
Every smile you give the wine-cup,
Every glance, O lady fair!
Like a spade, digs down and hollows out
A drunkard's grave somewhere.
"Men in office, men in power,
Will you let this demon wild
Stalk unfettered through the nation,
Slaying woman, man, and child?
Oh! arouse, ye listless mortals,
There is work for every one!
We have warned you of your danger--
We have spoken, we have done."
Round about me fell the silence
Of the solemn night once more,
And I heard the quiet ticking
Of the clock outside my door.
It was not a dreamer's fancy,
Not a romance of my brain,
But the warning of the victims
That old Alcohol had slain.
Drops of Water: Poems by Ella Wheeler
New York : The National Temperance Society and Publication House, 1872.
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