Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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

The Dirge Of The Winds

The four winds of earth, the North, South, East, and West,
Shrieked and groaned, sobbed and wailed, like the soul of unrest.
I stood in the dusk of the twilight alone,
And heard them go by with a terrible moan.
'What is it, O winds! that is grieving you so?
Come tell me your sorrow, and tell me your woe!'
'What is it?' I questioned. They shuddered, and said:
'We mourn for the dead! Oh! we mourn for the dead-
'For the dishonored dead that the wine-cup has slain;
For the wrecks that are lying on hill and on plain;
For the beautiful faces, so young and so fair,
That are lying down under the green grasses there;
For the masterful minds and beautiful souls
That were shattered, and drowned, and debased in the bowls;
For the graves that are scattered broadcast o'er the land,
The graves that were dug by King Alcohol's hand.
For the scenes that we saw, as we came on our way,
The sights and the sounds that degraded the day.
East and West, North and South, the tale is the same-
A tale of debasement, and sorrow, and shame.
And this is our sorrow, and this is our woe:
It is this, it is this, that is grieving us so.'
Three winds hushed their voices. The East wind alone
Told her tale in a moaning and sorrowful tone:
'I came yesterday, from the great Eastern land,
Where the mountains are high and the cities are grand;
But the devil walks there, night and day, in the streets,
And he offers red wine to each soul that he greets.
They drink, and the record of crimes and of sins,
And the record of shame and of sorrow begins.
I sped from the sin-burdened East to the West,
But I find not of balm for my agonized breast.
Wine blackens the West as it blackens the East.'
And the voice of the wind sobbed and wailed as it ceased.
'I come from the West!' another voice cried,
'Where the rivers are broad, and the prairies are wide.
There is vigor and strength in that beautiful land,
But the devil walks there with a bowl in his hand,
And the strongest grow weak, and the mightiest fall,
In the damnable reign of this King Alcohol.'
He ceased, and another came mournfully forth,
And spake: 'I came from the land of the North,
Where the streamlets are ice and the hillocks are snow,
And little of passions in mortal veins flow.
But the devil walks there in that land, day and night,
And he covers his face with a mask that is white;
And he smiles as he pours out the wine for his prey,
Nor counts up the legions he kills every day.'
The voice of the South wind spoke now in a sigh:
'And I, too, can tell of the thousands that die
By the hand of this king, in my soft, southern clime,
Where the sweet waters flow in a musical chime.
The devil walks there by King Alcohol's side,
And he pours out the wine till it flows in a tide;
It rushes along with a gurgling sound,
And thousands are caught in the current and drowned.'
Again the four winds cried aloud in their woe:
'It is this, it is this, that is grieving us so.
We see the mad legions go down to the grave,
Unable to warn them, unable to save,
We shriek and we groan, we shudder in pain,
For the souls that are lost, for the youths that are slain;
And the river flows onward, the river wine-red,
And we mourn for the dead, oh! we mourn for the dead.'
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