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Poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The Ladder

Unto each mortal who comes to earth
A ladder is given by God, at birth,
And up this ladder the soul must go,
Step by step, from the valley below;
Step by step, to the center of space,
On this ladder of lives, to the Starting Place.

In time departed (which yet endures)
I shaped my ladder, and you shaped yours.
Whatever they are--they are what we made:
A ladder of light, or a ladder of shade,
A ladder of love, or a hateful thing,
A ladder of strength, or a wavering string.
A ladder of gold, or a ladder of straw,
Each is the ladder of righteous law.

We flung them away at the call of death,
We took them again with the next life breath.
For a keeper stands by the great birth gates;
As each soul passes, its ladder waits.

Though mine be narrow, and yours be broad,
On my ladder alone can I climb to God.
On your ladder alone can your feet ascend,
For none may borrow, and none may lend.

If toil and trouble and pain are found,
Twisted and corded, to form each round,
If rusted iron or mouldering wood
Is the fragile frame, you must make it good.
You must build it over and fashion it strong,
Though the task be hard as your life is long;
For up this ladder the pathway leads
To earthly pleasures and spirit needs;
And all that may come in another way
Shall be but illusion, and will not stay.

In useless effort, then, waste no time;
Rebuild your ladder, and climb and climb. 

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Ella Wheeler Wilcox's other poems:
  1. The Birth of the Opal
  2. At Forty-Eight
  3. Artist and Man
  4. As by Fire
  5. But a Dream

Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • Aleister Crowley The Ladder ("Dark, dark all dark! I cower, I cringe")

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