"IN THE NIGHT."

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 handles it at all.

"We beseech you, men and women,
   Fathers, mothers, Husbands, 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, oh 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.

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


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