O wanton one, O wicked one, how was it that you came,
Down from the paths of purity, to walk the streets of shame?
And wherefore was that precious wealth God gave to you in trust,
Flung broadcast for the feet of men to trample in the dust?
O prudent one, O spotless one, now listen well to me.
The ways that led to where I tread these paths of sin, were three;
And God, and good folks, all combined to make them fair to see.
O wicked one, blasphemous one, now how could that thing be?
The first was Nature's lovely road, whereon my life was hurled.
I felt the stirring in my blood, which permeates the world.
I thrilled like willows in the spring, when sap begins to flow;
It was young passion in my veins, but how was I to know?
The second was the silent road, where modest mothers dwell,
And hide from eager, curious minds, the truth they ought to tell.
That misnamed road called "Innocence" should bear the sign "To Hell."
With song and dance in ignorance I walked that road and fell.
O fallen one, unhappy one, but why not rise and go
Back to the ways you left behind, and leave your sins below;
Nor linger in this sink of sin, since now you see, and know?
The third road was the fair highway, trod by the good and great.
I cried aloud to that vast crowd, and told my hapless fate.
They hurried all through door and wall and shut Convention's gate.
I beat it with my bleeding hands; they must have heard me knock,
They must have heard wild sob and word, yet no one turned the lock.
Oh, it is very desolate, on Virtue's path to stand,
And see the good folks flocking by, withholding look and hand.
And so with hungry heart and soul, and weary brain and feet,
I left that highway whence you came, and sought the sinful street.
O prudent one, O spotless one, when good folks speak of me,
Go, tell them of the roads I came; the roadways fair, and three.
World Voices by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
New York : Hearst's International Library Company, 1916.
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