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  What They Saw  


Sad man, Sad man, tell me, pray,
What did you see to-day?

I saw the unloved and unhappy old, waiting for slow delinquent death to come;
Pale little children toiling for the rich, in rooms where sunlight is ashamed to go; The awful almshouse, where the living dead rot slowly in their hideous open graves.
And there were shameful things.
Soldiers and forts, and industries of death, and devil-ships, and loud- winged devil-birds,
All bent on slaughter and destruction.    These and yet more shameful things mine eyes beheld:
Old men upon lascivious conquest bent, and young men living with no thought of God,
And half-clothed women puffing at a weed, aping the vices of the underworld,
Engrossed in shallow pleasures and intent on being barren wives.
These things I saw.
(How God must loathe His earth!)

Glad man, Glad man, tell me, pray.
What did you see to-day?

I saw an aged couple, in whose eyes
     Shone that deep light of mingled love and faith,
Which makes the earth one room of paradise,
     And leaves no sting in death.

I saw vast regiments of children pour,
Rank after rank, out of the schoolroom door
By Progress mobilised.    They seemed to say:
'Let ignorance make way.
We are the heralds of a better day.'

I saw the college and the church that stood
For all things sane and good.
I saw God's helpers in the shop and slum
Blazing a path for health and hope to come,
And True Religion, from the grave of creeds,
Springing to meet man's needs.

I saw great Science reverently stand
And listen for a sound from Border-land,
     No longer arrogant with unbelief -
     Holding itself aloof -
But drawing near, and searching high and low
     For that complete and all-convincing proof
     Which shall permit its voice to comfort grief,
Saying, 'We know.'

I saw fair women in their radiance rise
     And trample old traditions in the dust.
Looking in their clear eyes,
I seemed to hear these words as from the skies:
     'He who would father our sweet children must
     Be worthy of the trust.'

Against the rosy dawn, I saw unfurled
     The banner of the race we usher in,
The supermen and women of the world,
     Who make no code of sex to cover sin;
Before they till the soil of parenthood,
They look to it that seed and soil are good.

And I saw, too, that old, old sight, and best -
Pure mothers, with dear babies at the breast.
These things I saw.
(How God must love His earth!)

       - Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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