Poetry of Kansas

Day by Day.

Thou askest what may my mission be,
    And what great work am I bound to do;
Alas! I cannot unfold to thee
    The work of a day till that day be through.
I know not at night what awaits at morn;
    I know not at morn what the noon shall bring;
Nor know, till the eve its fruit has borne,
    What the twilight folds in its dusky wing.
I purpose and plan, but cannot dispose;
    The work I would do slips through my bands;
I am given a task that I never chose:
    And my strength is fettered by bars and bands.
I purpose and plan, yet blindly go,
    Doubtful whither; to reach my end
I sturdily toil, yet well I know
    To the will of events my will must bend.
I would build me a tower, with lordly wails,
    On a lofty rock that o'ertops the lands;
But, ere it is finished, my structure falls,
    For the rock has crumbled to shifting sands.
I have woven a web with the toil of years;
    I have laid it by, forgetting the moth:
And I thread my needle and sharpen my shears;
    But lo! the worms have eaten the cloth.
Still I then do naught; shall I sit in sloth,
    Because has tumbled my lordly tower?
And because the worms have eaten my cloth___
    Scorning the calls of the present hour?
If, day by day, while keen desire
    Pants for the work that is great and grand,
Some small, sweet task by the household-fire
    Mutely appeals to my brain and hand,
Shall I then complain? Shall I turn away,
    Closing my heart to the tender call?
And leave undone the work of to-day,
    Because it is humble, unseen, and small?
Nay; for, better than sounding name,
    And better than riches, that rot and rust,
And better than glistening wreathes of fame,
    That wither, and crumble, and fall to dust,
Are the blessings that come to me, one by one,
    The peaceful joys that enter my gate,
If I do my duty from sun to sun,
    Be it lowly or high, be it small or great.
The sweet, glad smile in a loved one's eye,
    The tender cadence of household-tones,
Are better than crowns of the great and high;___
    For to live on pride is to feed on stones.

__Ellen P. Allerton.

Walls of Corn and Other Poems
Ellen P. Allerton
(Hiawatha, KS: Harrington Printing Company. 1894)
Pages 232-233

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February 24, 2003 / John & Susan Howell / Wichita, Kansas / howell@kotn.org

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