Ella Wheeler Wilcox

5 November 1850 - 30 October 1919 / Johnstown Center / Rock County / Wisconsin

The Cry Of The People

Fire! Fire! Fire! the cry rang out on the night air,
The roving winds caught it up, and the very heavens resounded.
Louder and louder still, by voices grown hoarse with terror,
The cry went up and out and a nation stood still to listen.
'Come, for the love of God, and help us fight the demon!
Come and help us to chain the fiend that is making us homeless:
His hot and scorching breath has melted our hard-earned fortunes,
And, not contented with this, he is snatching our loved ones from us.
The air is thick with the stream that pours in clouds from his nostrils:
Come, for the love of God, and help us to fetter or slay him.'
The ear of the Nation heard, the heart of the Nation responded:
The smith left anvil and forge, and hastened to render assistance;
The clergyman went from the pulpit, the lawyer went from his office,
The houses of trade were closed, and a Nation was in commotion.
For the hungry tongue of Fire was lapping the skirts of the city,
The royal Queen of the West, and her people were crying in anguish.
Nobly and well they worked, till they chained and fettered the demon,
Bound him hand and foot, and hindered his work of destruction.
Over the land on wires, over the mighty cable,
Flashed the terrible truth: 'Ruin and destitution
Reigns where but yesterday there was lavish wealth and plenty.'
And up from the South came aid, and aid came down from the Northland,
And it came from East and West, wholesome food for the hungry,
Shelter for houseless heads, and clothes to cover the naked.
Hark! there's a sound abroad, like the cry of a suffering people,
Loud and louder it swells, and echoes from ocean to ocean,
The raving winds catch it up, and from throats that are hoarse with crying
The wail goes up and out, but is answered only by echoes.
'Come for the love of God, and help us to fetter the demon
That is taking the bread from our mouths, and the mouths of our helpless children;
He is walking abroad in the land, and all things perish before him:
Homesteads crumble away, and fortunes vanish like snow wreaths;
And, not contented with this, he is slaying our best and our fairest,
Stealing the brains of the wise, and bringing the young to the gallows;
He is making the home forlorn, and crowding the jails and the prisons,
He moves the hand of the thief-he drives the assassin's dagger.'
The ear of the Nation is deaf, the heart of the Nation is hardened:
The smith at his anvil and forge sings in the midst of his labor;
The clergyman stands in his pulpit, and prays for the soul of the sinner,
But says no word of the fiend who wrecked and ruined the mortal;
The lawyer smokes his cigar or sips his glass of Burgundy;
The merchant, day after day, thinks only of buying and selling.
And up and down through the land, night and day, walks the demon,
Poverty, sorrow, and shame follow the print of his footsteps.
The cry of the people goes up, a cry of anguish and pleading,
But only a few respond, a few too feeble to chain him.
The multitude stands aloof, or aids the fiend of destruction,
While he tramples under his hoofs hundreds and thousands of victims-
And the multitude's ear is deaf to the wail of the beggared orphans.
Shame, oh! shame to the Nation that leaves the demon of Traffic
Free to roam through the land, and pillage and rob the helpless.
Shame to the multitude that will not render assistance,
But leaves a few to do what many can only accomplish.
Arouse! ye listless hosts! and answer the suffering people!
Spring to the aid of the million, as ye sprang to the aid of the thousand:
As you fettered the demon Fire, fetter the demon Traffic,
Who slays his tens of thousands, where the other slew only hundreds.
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