by Adah Isaacs Menken
In the Beginning, God, the great Schoolmaster, wrote upon the white leaves of our souls the text of life, in His own autograph.
Upon all souls it has been written alike.
We set forth with the broad, fair characters penned in smoothness and beauty, and promise to bear them back so, to the Master, who will endorse them with eternal life.
But, alas! how few of us can return with these copy-books unstained and unblotted?
Man-the school-boy Man-takes a jagged pen and dips it in blood, and scrawls line after line of his hopeless, shaky, weak-backed, spattering imitation of the unattainable flourish and vigor of the autograph at the top of our souls.
And thus they go on, in unweary reiteration, until the fair leaves are covered with unseemly blots, and the Schoolmaster's copy is no longer visible.
No wonder, then, that we shrink and hide, and play truant as long as we possibly can, before handling in to the Master our copy-books for examination.
How soiled with the dust of men, and stained with the blood of the innocent, some of these books are!
Surely, some will look fairer than others.
Those of the lowly and despised of men;
The wronged and the persecuted;
The loving and the deserted;
The suffering and the despairing;
The weak and the struggling;
The desolate and the oppressed;
The authors of good books;
The defenders of women;
The mothers of new-born children;
The loving wives of cruel husbands;
The strong throats that are choked with their own blood, and cannot cry out the oppressor's wrong.
On the souls of these of God's children of inspiration, His autograph will be handed up to the judgment-seat, on the Day of Examination, pure and unsoiled.
The leaf may be torn, and traces of tears, that fell as prayers went up, may dim the holy copy, but its fair, sharp, and delicate outlines will only gleam the stronger, and prove the lesson of life, that poor, down-trodden humanity has been studying for ages and ages-the eternal triumph of mind over matter!
What grand poems these starving souls will be, after they are signed and sealed by the Master-hand!
But what of the oppressor?
What of the betrayer?
What of him that holds a deadly cup, that the pure of heart may drink?
What of fallen women, who are covered with paint and sin, and flaunt in gaudy satins, never heeding the black stains within their own breasts?-lost to honor, lost to themselves; glittering in jewels and gold; mingling with sinful men, who, with sneering looks and scossing laughs, drink wine beneath the gas-light's glare.
Wrecks of womanly honor!
Wrecks of womanly souls!
Wrecks of life and love!
Blots that deface the fair earth with crime and sin!
Fallen-fallen so low that the cries and groans of the damned must sometimes startle their death-signed hearts, as they flaunt through the world, with God's curse upon them!
What of the money-makers, with their scorching days and icy nights?
Their hollow words and ghastly smiles?
Their trifling deceits?
Their shameless lives?
Their starving menials?
Their iron hands, that grasp the throats of weary, white-haired men?
Will their coffins be black?
They should be red-stained with the blood of their victims!
Their shrouds should be make with pockets; and all their gold should be placed therein, to drag them deeper down than the sexton dug the grave!
How will it be with him who deceives and betrays women?
Answer me this, ye men who have brought woe and desolation to the heart of woman; and, by your fond lips, breathing sighs, and vows of truth and constancy-your deceit and desertion, destroyed her, body and soul!
There are more roads to the heart than by cold steel.
You drew her life and soul after you by your pretended love. Perhaps she sacrificed her home, her father and her mother-her God and her religion for you!
Perhaps for you she has endured pain and penury!
Perhaps she is the mother of your child, living and praying for you!
And how do you repay this devotion?
By entering the Eden of her soul, and leaving the trail of the serpent, that can never be erased from its flowers; for the best you trample beneath your feet, while the fairnest you pluck as a toy to while away an idle hour, then dash aside for another of a fairer cast.
Then, if she plead with her tears, and her pure hands, to Heaven, that you come back to your lost honor, and to her heart, you do not hesitate to tear that suffering heart with a shameless word, that cuts like a jagged knife, and add your curse to crush her light of life!
Have ye seen the blood-stained steel, dimmed with the heart's warm blood of the suicide?
Have ye seen the pallid lips, the staring eyes, the unclosed, red-roofed mouth-the bubbling gore, welling up from a woman's breast?
Have ye seen her dying in shivering dread, with the blood dabbled o'er her bosom?
Have ye heard her choked voice rise in prayer-her pale lips breathing his name-the name of him who deceived her? Yes! a prayer coming up with the bubbling blood-a blessing on him for whom she died!
Why did she not pray for her despairing self?
O God! have mercy on the souls of men who are false to their earthly love and trust!
But the interest will come round-all will come round!
Nothing will escape the Schoolmaster's sleepless eye!
The indirect is always as great and real as the direct.
Not one word or deed-
Not one look or thought-
Not a motive but will be stamped on the programme of our lives, and duly realized by us, and returned and held up to light heaven or flood hell with.
All the best actions of war or peace-
All the help given to strangers-
Cheering words to the despairing-
Open hands to the shunned-
Lifting of lowly hearts-
Teaching children of God-
Helping the widow and the fatherless-
Giving light to some desolate home-
Reading the Bible to the blind-
Protecting the defenceless-
Praying with the dying.
These are acts that need no Poet to make poems of them; for they will live through ages and ages, on to Eternity. And when God opens the sealed book on the Day of Judgment, these poems of the history of lives will be traced in letters of purple and gold, beneath the Master's Autograph.
Last updated July 05, 2015