To build a house, with love for architect,
Ranks first and foremost in the joys of life.
And in a tiny cabin, shaped for two,
The space for happiness is just as great
As in a palace. What a world were this
If each soul born, received a plot of ground;
A little plot, whereon a home might rise,
And beauteous green things grow!
We give the dead,
The idle vagrant dead, the Potter's Field;
Yet to the living not one inch of soil.
Nay, we take from them soil, and sun, and air
To fashion slums and hell-holes for the race.
And to our poor we say, 'Go starve and die
As beggars die; so gain your heritage.'
That was a most uncanny dream; I thought the wraiths of those
Long buried in the Potter's Field, in shredded shrouds arose;
They said, 'Against the will of God
We have usurped the fertile sod,
Now will we make it yield.'
Oh! but it was a gruesome sight, to see those phantoms toil;
Each to his own small garden bent; each spaded up the soil;
(I never knew Ghosts laboured so.)
Each scattered seed, and watched, till lo!
The Graves were opulent.
Then all among the fragrant greens, the silent, spectral train
Walked, as if breathing in the breath of plant, and flower, and grain.
(I never knew Ghosts loved such things;
Perchance it brought back early springs
Before they thought of death.)
'The mothers' milk for living babes; the earth for living hosts;
The clean flame for the un-souled dead.' (Oh, strange the words of Ghosts.)
'If we had owned this little spot
In life, we need not lie and rot
Here in a pauper's bed.'
Poems of Problems. By Ella Wheeler Wilcox
London : Gay and Hancock, 1914.
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