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Poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The Meeting of the Centuries

A curious vision on mine eyes unfurled
   In the deep night. I saw, or seemed to see,
   Two Centuries meet, and sit down vis-à-vis
Across the great round table of the world:
One with suggested sorrows in his mien,
   And on his brow the furrowed lines of thought;
   And one whose glad expectant presence brought
A glow and radiance from the realms unseen.

Hand clasped with hand, in silence for a space
   The Centuries sat; the sad old eyes of one
   (As grave paternal eyes regard a son)
Gazing upon that other eager face.
And then a voice, as cadenceless and gray
   As the seas monody in winter time,
   Mingled with tones melodious, as the chime
Of bird choirs, singing in the dawns of May.

                        THE OLD CENTURY SPEAKS

By you, Hope stands. With me, Experience walks.
Like a fair jewel in a faded box,
In my tear-rusted heart, sweet Pity lies.
For all the dreams that look forth from your eyes,
And those bright-hued ambitions, which I know
Must fall like leaves and perish, in Times snow,
(Even as my souls garden stands bereft,)
I give you pity! tis the one gift left.

                            THE NEW CENTURY

Nay, nay, good friend! not pity, but Godspeed,
Here in the morning of my life I need.
Counsel, and not condolence; smiles, not tears,
To guide me through the channels of the years.
Oh, I am blinded by the blaze of light
That shines upon me from the Infinite.
Blurred is my vision by the close approach
To unseen shores, whereon the times encroach.

                            THE OLD CENTURY

Illusion, all illusion. List and hear
The Godless cannons, booming far and near.
Flaunting the flag of Unbelief, with Greed
For pilot, lo! the pirate age in speed
Bears on to ruin. Wars most hideous crimes
Besmirch the record of these modern times.
Degenerate is the world I leave to you,-
My happiest speech to earth will be-adieu.

                            THE NEW CENTURY

You speak as one too weary to be just.
I hear the guns-I see the greed and lust.
The death throes of a giant evil fill
The air with riot and confusion. Ill
Ofttimes makes fallow ground for Good; and Wrong
Builds Rights foundation, when it grows too strong.
Pregnant with promise is the hour, and grand
The trust you leave in my all-willing hand.

                            THE OLD CENTURY

As one who throws a flickering tapers ray
To light departing feet, my shadowed way
You brighten with your faith. Faith makes the man
Alas, that my poor foolish age outran
Its early trust in God! The death of art
And progress follows, when the worlds hard heart
Casts out religion. Tis the human brain
Men worship now, and heaven, to them, means-gain.

                            THE NEW CENTURY

Faith is not dead, tho priest and creed may pass,
For thought has leavened the whole unthinking mass,
And man looks now to find the God within.
We shall talk more of love, and less of sin,
In this new era. We are drawing near
Unatlassed boundaries of a larger sphere.
With awe, I wait, till Science leads us on,
Into the full effulgence of its dawn.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Ella Wheeler Wilcox's other poems:
  1. The Birth of the Opal
  2. The Awakening (I love the tropics, where sun and rain)
  3. The Breaking of Chains
  4. The Chain
  5. The Coming Man

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