Posthumous Praise

I care so little what the world shall say
  Of me, or of my work, when I am dead;
I much prefer its friendly smile to-day
  To the cold smile of marble o'er my bed.

If there is life beyond this (and I know it),
  My soul will be too well employed to care
If back on earth I am deemed fool or poet,
  Or if I am at once forgotten there.

And, should there be (as I do hope sometimes)
  No life but rest beyond this restless one,
Whatever men may say of my poor rhymes
  Cannot disturb me when my race is run.

So chide me not that I live for the present,
  Nor delve a hermit bookworm through my days,
Refusing all things that are bright and pleasant,
  Just for the hope of some posthumous praise.

Let who will choose that lone and lofty aim
  Which bears no fruit till we live in the grave:
I have no longing for a deathless fame--
  The love and praise of true hearts now I crave.

So keep your tombstones for another poet,
  And call him great; I know that I am not.
But, if I please you for an hour, why, show it,
  Tho' my poor grave shall be an unmarked spot.

           --Ella Wheeler, in Chicago Tribune.

Cleveland Plain Dealer (4 August 1882): 2.

Courtesy of John M. Freiermuth.

Back to Poem Index