Ella Wheeler Wilcox was an American poetess writing at the turn of the last century. Despite being a contemporary of George Bernard Shaw (who was famously passionate about his vegetarianism) Ella Wheeler Wilcox was neither a vegetarian nor a vegan. However, much like the courtroom scene in 1967’s Dr Doolittle, her 1896 poem Voice of the Voiceless somehow captured something of the essence of the vegan principle of Ahimsa, harmlessness, and reverence for life.
Gentle World’s co-founder Sun was a passionate lover of literature, of poetry, and of the words and sentiments of history’s great philosophers. When Sun passed in 2019, one of the gifts she left behind was a compilation of quotes and excerpts that she had carefully selected over many years, including a number of Wilcox’s poems.
Thanks to the recording of some experimental footage by a volunteer who participated in our program in 2011, Sun was captured on video reciting Ella’s words from memory.
Note: The words she shares are actually from two of Ella’s poems: The World’s Need, and Voice of the Voiceless. Sun edited the resulting hybrid for brevity.
So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind
Is all the sad world needs.
I am the voice of the voiceless:
Through me, their hearts shall speak;
Till the deaf world’s ear be made to hear
The cry of the wordless weak.
From lab, from cage and from forests,
From slaughterhouse stalls, comes the wail
Of my tortured kin. They proclaim the sin
Of the mighty against the frail.
For love is the true religion,
And love is the law sublime;
And all that is wrought, where love is not
Will die at the touch of time.
Oh, shame on the mothers of mortals
Who have not stopped to teach
Of the sorrow that lies in an animal’s eyes,
The sorrow that has no speech.
The same Power formed the sparrow
That fashioned man – the King;
The God of the whole gave a living soul
To furred and to feathered thing.
And I am my brother’s keeper,
And I will fight his fight;
And speak the word for beast and bird
Till the world shall set things right.