Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Nov. 5, 1850 - Oct. 30, 1919


The Phantom Ball

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

You remember the hall on the corner?
To-night as I walked down street
I heard the sound of music,
And the rhythmic beat and beat
In time to the pulsing measure
Of lightly tripping feet.

And I turned and entered the doorway --
It was years since I had been there --
Years, and life seemed altered:
Pleasure had changed to care.
But again I was hearing the music
And watching the dancers fair.

And then, as I stood and listened,
The music lost its glee;
And instead of the merry waltzers
There were ghosts of the Used-to-be --
Ghosts of the pleasure-seekers
Who once had danced with me.

Oh, 'twas a ghastly picture!
Oh, 'twas a gruesome crowd!
Each bearing a skull on his shoulder,
Each trailing a long white shroud,
As they whirled in the dance together,
And the music shrieked aloud.

As they danced, their dry bones rattled
Like shutters in a blast;
And they stared from eyeless sockets
On me as they circled past;
And the music that kept them whirling
Was a funeral dirge played fast.

Some of them wore their face-cloths,
Others were rotted away.
Some had mould on their garments
And some seemed dead but a day.
Corpses all, but I knew them
As friends, once blithe and gay.

Beauty and strength and manhood --
And this was the end of it all:
Nothing but phantoms whirling
In a ghastly skeleton ball.
But the music ceased -- and they vanished,
And I came away from the hall.


How Salvator Won And Other Recitations
Copyright 1891
Edgar S. Werner, New York
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