Nothing and Something
It is nothing to me, the beauty said,
With a careless toss of her pretty head;
The man is weak if he can't refrain
From the cup you say is fraught with pain.
It was something to her in after years,
When her eyes were drenched with burning tears,
And she watched in lonely grief and dread,
And startled to hear a staggering tread.
It is nothing to me, the mother said;
I have no fear that my boy will tread
In the downward path of sin and shame,
And crush my heart and darken his name.
It was something to her when that only son
From the path of right was early won,
And madly cast in the flowing bowl
A ruined body and sin-wrecked soul.
It is nothing to me, the young man cried:
In his eye was a flash of scorn and pride;
I heed not the dreadful things ye tell:
I can rule myself I know full well.
It was something to him when in prison he lay
The victim of drink, life ebbing away;
And thought of his wretched child and wife,
And the mournful wreck of his wasted life.
It is nothing to me, the merchant said,
As over his ledger he bent his head;
I'm busy to-day with tare and tret,
And I have no time to fume and fret.
It was something to him when over the wire
A message came from a funeral pyre—
A drunken conductor had wrecked a train,
And his wife and child were among the slain.
It is nothing to me, the voter said,
The party's loss is my greatest dread;
Then gave his vote for the liquor trade,
Though hearts were crushed and drunkards made.
It was something to him in after life,
When his daughter became a drunkard's wife
And her hungry children cried for bread,
And trembled to hear their father's tread.
Is it nothing for us to idly sleep
While the cohorts of death their vigils keep?
To gather the young and thoughtless in,
And grind in our midst a grist of sin?
This poem is in the public domain.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was born on September 24, 1825, in Baltimore, Maryland. She was a prominent abolitionist and temperance and women's suffrage activist, as well as a poet. She authored numerous books, including the poetry collections Forest Leaves (1845) and Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1854). She worked at Union Seminary in Ohio, and died on February 22, 1911 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Date Published: 1895-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/nothing-and-something