Menken, Adah Isaacs
|THE AUTOGRAPH ON THE SOUL.|
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 copybooks
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
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, them, that we shrink and hide, and play
truant as long as we possibly can, before handing 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 other's.104Those 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 with105sinful men, who, with sneering looks and scoffing 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
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
Will their coffins be black?
They should be red--stained with the blood of their
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
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 steel106You 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 fairest
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!107But 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 window and the fatherless--
Giving light to some desolate home--
Reading the Bible to the blind--
Protecting the defenseless--
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