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 simpler 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.

World Voices by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
New York : Hearst"s International Library Company 1916.


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