Hers was a lonely, shadowed lot;
Or so the unperceiving thought,
Who looked no deeper than her face,
Devoid of chiselled lines of grace –
No farther than her humble grate,
And wondered how she bore her fate.
Yet she was neither lone nor sad;
So much of love her spirit had,
She found an ever-flowing spring
Of happiness in everything.
So near to her was Nature’s heart
It seemed a very living part
Of her own self; and bud and blade,
And heat and cold, and sun and shade,
And dawn and sunset, Spring and Fall,
Held raptures for her, one and all.
The year’s four changing seasons brought
To her own door what thousands sought
In wandering ways and did not find –
Diversion and content of mind.
She loved the tasks that filled each day –
Such menial duties; but her way
Of looking at them lent a grace
To things the world deemed commonplace.
Obscure and without place or name,
She gloried in another’s fame.
Poor, plain and humble in her dress,
She thrilled when beauty and success
And wealth passed by, on pleasure bent;
They made earth seem so opulent.
Yet none of quicker sympathy,
When need or sorrow came, than she.
And so she lived, and so she died.
She woke as from a dream.
And wonderful the avenue
That stretched to her astonished view!
And up the green ascending lawn
A palace caught the rays of dawn.
Then suddenly the silence stirred
With one clear keynote of a bird;
A thousand answered, till ere long
The air was quivering bits of song.
She rose and wandered forth in awe,
Amazed and moved by all she saw,
For, like so many souls who go
Away from earth, she did not know
The cord was severed.
Down the street,
With eager arms stretched forth to greet,
Came one she loved and mourned in youth;
Her mother followed; then the truth
Broke on her, golden wave on wave,
Of knowledge infinite.
The body and the earthly sphere
Were gone! Immortal life was here!
They led her through the Palace halls;
From gleaming mirrors on the walls
She saw herself, with radiant mien,
And robed in splendour like a queen,
While glory round about her shone.
‘All this, ’ Love murmured, ‘is your own.
And when she gazed with wondering eye,
And questioned whence and where and why,
Love answered thus: ‘All Heaven is made
By thoughts on earth; your walls were laid,
Year after year, of purest gold;
The beauty of your mind behold
In this fair palace; ay, and more
Waits farther on, so vast your store.
I was not worthy when I died
To take my place here at your side;
I toiled through long and weary years
From lower planes to these high spheres;
And through the love you sent from earth
I have attained a second birth.
Oft when my erring soul would tire
I felt the strength of your desire;
I heard you breathe my name in prayer,
And courage conquered weak despair.
Ah! earth needs heaven, but heaven indeed
Of earth has just as great a need!
Across the terrace with a bound
There sped a lambkin with a hound
(Dumb comrades of the old earth land)
And fondled her caressing hand.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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