I often fish around for inspiring and/or uplifting poetry to share in my yoga classes. Particularly the Basic and Yin classes, where we spend the first few minutes in seated meditation.
It’s part of the process of unplugging from everything in the outside world—the busy-ness, to-do lists, worries, regrets, etc.—and plugging into the present moment, the here and now, and what it feels like to be in our bodies.
The foregoing, in fact, is the intro I use in those classes. It helps set the tone for taking time to simply breathe, and then to link that breath with mindful movements.
And so I think of Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Born in 1850, Ella grew up in rural Wisconsin. A dreamer and true believer, she began writing poetry at an early age. Later, she is known as a “popular poet,” not a literary one. Some scoff at her simplicity of form, her naive world view and her forward thinking ideas on spirituality. I can so relate. She died in 1919 at the age of 69.
Her autobiography ‘The Worlds and I’ concludes with this: “From this mighty storehouse (of God, and the hierarchies of Spiritual Beings ) we may gather wisdom and knowledge, and receive light and power, as we pass through this preparatory room of earth, which is only one of the innumerable mansions in our Father’s house. Think on these things.” How anyone can have a problem with that I don’t understand, except to say it was a different time and thoughts like these were considered lunacy.
But Ella was not crazy, not in the least. Many of you already know her—she’s the one who said “Laugh and the world laughs with you, Weep, and you weep alone;
The good old earth must borrow its mirth, But has trouble enough of its own.”
The oft repeated opening lines are from Ella’s poem ‘Solitude,’ which was first published in the New York Sun in February of 1883. She received five bucks for the piece.
Beautiful Ella also says “Love lights more fires than hate extinguishes,” something that resonates through the ages with all truly spiritual beings.
And then there’s this, this beautiful poem that sits with me always, that I share whenever possible, including right here.:
The Voice of the Voiceless
By Ella Wheeler Wilcox
So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind
Is all the sad world needs.
I am the voice of the voiceless:
Through me, the dumb shall speak;
Till the deaf world’s ear be made to hear
The cry of the wordless weak.
From street, from cage and from kennel,
From jungle, and stall, the wail
Of my tortured kin proclaims the sin
Of the mighty against the frail
For love is the true religion,
And love is the law sublime;
And all is wrought, where love is not
Will die at the touch of time.
Oh shame on the mothers of mortals
Who have not stopped to teach
Of the sorrow that lies in dear, dumb eyes,
The sorrow that has no speech.
The same Power formed the sparrow
That fashioned man-the King;
The God of the whole gave a living soul
To furred and to feathered thing.
And I am my brother’s keeper,
And I will fight his fight;
And speak the word for beast and bird
Till the world shall set things right.
Here’s to kindness and to the furry and fowl and beasts, and to brother’s keepers everywhere…
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Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.