WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?

What have you done, and what are you doing with life, O Man!
O Average Man of the world--
Average Man of the Christian world we call civilised?
What have you done to pay for the labour pains of the mother who bore you?
On earth you occupy space; you consume oxygen from the air:
And what do you give in return for these things?
Who is better that you live, and strive, and toil?
Or that you live through the toiling and striving of others?
As you pass down the street does any one look on you and say,
'There goes a good son, a true husband, a wise father, a fine citizen?
A man whose strong hand is ready to help a neighbour,
A man to trust'? And what do women say of you?
Unto their own souls what do women say?
Do they say: 'He helped to make the road easier for tired feet?
To broaden the narrow horizon for aching eyes?
He helped us to higher ideals of womanhood'?
Look into your own heart and answer, O Average Man of the world,
Of the Christian world we call civilised.

What do men think of you, what do they think and say of you,
O Average Woman of the world?
Do they say: 'There is a woman with a great heart,
Loyal to her sex, and above envy and evil speaking?
There is a daughter, wife, mother, with a purpose in life:
She can be trusted to mould the minds of little children.
She knows how to be good without being dull;
How to be glad and to make others glad without descending to folly;
She is one who illuminates the path wherein she walks;
One who awakens the best in every human being she meets'?
Look into your heart, O Woman! and answer this:
What are you doing with the beautiful years?
Is your to-day a better thing than was your yesterday?
Have you grown in knowledge, grace, and usefulness?
Or are you ravelling out the wonderful fabric knit by Time,
And throwing away the threads?
Make answer, O Woman! Average Woman of the Christian world.

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


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