THE PRICE HE PAID

I said I would have my fling,
    And do what a young man may:
And I didn't believe a thing
    That the parsons have to say.
I didn't believe in a God
    That gives us blood like fire,
Then flings us into hell because
    We answer the call of desire.

And I said: 'Religion is rot,
    And the laws of the world are nil;
For the bad man is he who is caught
    And cannot foot his bill.
And there is no place called hell;
    And heaven is only a truth
When a man has his way with a maid,
    In the fresh keen hour of youth.

'And money can buy us grace,
    If it rings on the plate of the church:
And money can neatly erase
    Each sign of a sinful smirch.'
For I saw men everywhere,
    Hotfooting the road of vice;
And women and preachers smiled on them
    As long as they paid the price.

So I had my joy of life:
    I went the pace of the town;
And then I took me a wife,
    And started to settle down.
I had gold enough and to spare
    For all of the simple joys
That belong with a house and a home
    And a brood of girls and boys.

I married a girl with health
    And virtue and spotless fame.
I gave in exchange my wealth
    And a proud old family name.
And I gave her the love of a heart
    Grown sated and sick of sin!
My deal with the devil was all cleaned up,
    And the last bill handed in.

She was going to bring me a child,
    And when in labour she cried
With love and fear I was wild--
    But now I wish she had died.
For the son she bore me was blind
    And crippled and weak and sore!
And his mother was left a wreck.
    It was so she settled my score.

I said I must have my fling,
    And they knew the path I would go;
Yet no one told me a thing
    Of what I needed to know.
Folks talk too much of a soul
    From heavenly joys debarred--
And not enough of the babes unborn,
    By the sins of their fathers scarred.

Poems of Problems. By Ella Wheeler Wilcox
London : Gay and Hancock, 1914.


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