Oh households wherein skeletons abide!
   Keep the dark closet closed, nor think it wise
   To throw the door open for stranger eyes,
To see the grinning, fleshless thing inside.

I hate that senseless, imbecile display
   Of loathsome things, that calls the gaping crowd
   To gaze and comment. Let the screening shroud
Cover the faces of the dead, I say.

And if a household counts a skeleton,
   Then keep the ghastly phantom closeted;
   Nor flaunt the bones of the unquiet dead
For all the vulgar throng to gaze upon.

Oh you whose souls are burdened cruelly,
   Who shrink in anguish at the bitter smart
   That gnaweth, burneth, at your very heart--
Cover the wounds, that strangers shall not see!

Think you a bleeding heart will sooner heal,
   To hang where all the cutting winds that blow,
   And all the birds of prey can mock its woe?
I hate that vain parade, of all we feel.

Whoever knew the world to give relief
   To any private sorrow of a heart!
   Its sneering pity is a poisoned dart!
Then closet well your phantoms, and your grief.


Shells by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Milwaukee: Hauser & Storey, 1873.

Back to Poem Index