Arrow and bow

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Arrow and bow
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
From Poems of Optimism (1919)

It is easy to stand in the pulpit, or in the closet to kneel,
   And say: ‘God do this; God do that! -
Make the world better; relieve the sorrows of man; for the sake of Thy Son,
Oh, forgive all sin!’ Then, having planned out God’s work, to feel
   Our duty is done.
It is easy to be religious this way -
Easy to pray.

It is harder to stand on the highway, or walk in the crowded mart;
   And say: ‘I am He. I am He.
‘Mine the world-burden; mine the sorrows of men; mine the Christ-work
‘To forgive my brother’s sin,’ and then to live the Christ-part and never to shirk.
   It is hard for you and me
To be religious this way,
Day after day.

But God is no longer in heaven; we drove Him out with our prayers,
Drove Him out with our sermons and creeds, and our endless plaints and despairs.
He came down over the borders, and Christ, too, came along;
They are looking the whole world over to see just what is wrong.
God has grown weary of hearing His praises sung on earth;
And Jesus is weary of hearing the story about His birth;
And the way to win Their favour, that is surer than any other,
Is to join in a song of Brotherhood and praises of one another.

No; God is no longer in heaven; He has come down on earth to see
That nothing is wrong with the world He made; the wrong is in you and me.
He meant the earth for a garden-spot, where mill and factory stand;
Childhood, he meant for growing-time - but look at the toiling band!
Woman was meant for mother and mate - now look at the slaves of lust.
And the good folks shake their heads and say, ‘We must pray to God and trust.’
God has a billion books of our prayers unopened upon his shelves,
For the things we are begging Him to do, He wants us to do ourselves.

Jehovah, Jesus, and each soul in space
   Are one and undividable. Until
We see God shining in each neighbour’s face
And find Him in ourselves and hail Him there,
What use is prayer?
   Let us be still.
How can we love the whole and not each part?
How worship God, and harbour in the heart
Hate of God’s members - for all men are that.
Too long our souls have sat,
Like poor blind beggars at the door of God.
   He never made a beggar - we are kings!

Let us rise up, for it is time we trod
   The mountain-tops; time that we did the things
We have so long asked God to do.
He waits for you
To look deep in your brother’s eyes and see
   The God within;
To hear you say ‘Lo, thou art He; Lo, thou art He.’
This is the only way to end all sin,
The difficult, one way.

A prayer without a deed is an arrow without a bow-string;
A deed without a prayer is a bow-string without an arrow.
The heart of a man should be like a quiver full of arrows,
And the hand of a man should be like a strong bow strung for action.
The heart of a man should keep his arrows ever ascending,
And the hand and the mind of a man should keep at a work unending.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1919, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.