Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Nov. 5, 1850 - Oct. 30, 1919


War Sonnets

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox


War is destructive, wasteful, brutal, yet
The energies of man are brought to play,
And hidden valour by occasion met
Leaps to the light, as precious jewels may
When earthquakes rend the rock. The stress and strain
Of war stirs men to do their worst and best.
Heroes are forged on anvils hot with pain,
And splendid courage comes but with the test.
Some natures ripen and some virtues bloom
Only in blood-red soil: some souls prove great
Only in moments dark with death or doom.
This is the sad historic jest which fate
Flings to the world, recurring time on time --
Many must fall that one may seem sublime.


Above the chaos of impending ills,
Through all the clamour of insistent strife,
Now while the noise of arming nations fills
Each throbbing hour with menaces to life,
I hear the voice of Progress! Strange indeed
The shadowed pathways that lead up to light.
But as a runner sometimes will recede
That he may so accumulate his might,
Then with a will that needs must be obeyed
Rushes resistless to the goal with ease,
So the whole world seems now to retrograde,
Slips back to war, that it may speed to peace;
And in that backward step it gathers force
For the triumphant finish of its course.


Poems of Pleasure
Copyright 1900
Gay And Bird, 22 Bedford Street, Strand, London