Unto each mortal who comes to earth
A ladder is given by God at birth,
And up this ladder the soul must go,
Step by step, from the valley below;
Step by step to the center of space
On this ladder of lives to the starting place.

In time departed, which yet endures,
I shaped my ladder and you shaped yours,
Whatever they are, they are what we made,
A ladder of light or a ladder of shade;
A ladder of love or a hateful thing,
A ladder of strength or a wavering string,
A ladder of gold or a ladder of straw--
Each is the ladder of righteous law.

We flung them away at the call of death,
We took them again with the next life breath,
For a keeper stands by the great birth gates,
And as each soul passes its ladder waits.
Though mine be narrow and yours be broad,
On my ladder alone can I climb to God.
On your ladder alone can you feet ascend,
For none may borrow and none may lend.

If toil and trouble and pain are found
Twisted and corded to form each round,
If rusted iron or moldering wood
Is the fragile frame, you must make it good
You must build it over and fashion it strong,
Though the task be as hard as your life is long;
For up this ladder the pathway leads
To earthly pleasures and spirit needs,
For all that may come in another way
Shall be but illusion and will not stay.

In useless effort, then, waste no time;
Rebuild your ladder, and climb and climb.

"Life's ladder." (Poem) by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Confederate Veteran Magazine (Dec. 1910)

Provided courtesy of John Pannick.

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