To sin by silence, when we should protest, Makes cowards out of men. The human race Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised Against injustice, ignorance, and lust, The inquisition yet would serve the law, And guillotines decide our least disputes. The few who dare, must speak and speak again To right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God, No vested power in this great day and land Can gag or throttle. Press and voice may cry Loud disapproval of existing ills; May criticise oppression and condemn The lawlessness of wealth-protecting laws That let the children and childbearers toil To purchase ease for idle millionaires.
Therefore I do protest against the boast Of independence in this mighty land. Call no chain strong, which holds one rusted link. Call no land free, that holds one fettered slave. Until the manacled slim wrists of babes Are loosed to toss in childish sport and glee, Until the mother bears no burden, save The precious one beneath her heart, until God’s soil is rescued from the clutch of greed And given back to labor, let no man Call this the land of freedom.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) was born on November 5, 1850, in Johnstown Center, Wisconsin. She was a popular writer characterized mainly by her upbeat and optimistic poetry, though she was also an activist. Her poetry collections include Poems of Passion (W. B. Conkey Company, 1883) and Poems of Peace (Gay & Bird, 1906).