Ella Wheeler Wilcox

On Seeing the Daibutsu—At Kamakura, Japan (1912)

Long have I searched, Cathedral shrine, and hall,
To find a symbol, from the hand of art,
That gave the full expression (not a part)
Of that ecstatic peace which follows all
Life’s pain and passion. Strange it should befall
This outer emblem of the inner heart
Was waiting far beyond the great world’s mart—
Immortal answer, to the mortal call.

Unknown the artist, vaguely known his creed:
But the bronze wonder of his work sufficed
To lift me to the heights his faith had trod.
For one rich moment, opulent indeed,
I walked with Krishna, Buddha, and the Christ,
And felt the full serenity of God.




Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) was a prolific poet and essayist who at the turn of the twentieth century was among the most popular of American writers. For many years she published a daily poem for newspaper syndication, and her work appeared frequently in mass circulation magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Lippincott’s Monthly. She rose to prominence when the would-be publisher of her fourth book, Poems of Passion (1883), declared it immoral, and the row that ensued in the American press assured that when the book appeared from a different press it enjoyed enormous success. Wilcox used this in later years to the advantage of a variety of charities and causes, and came to be closely associated with the women’s movement, theosophy, and, especially, the metaphysics of the ‘New Thought’ movement. She travelled in Japan, China, Burma, and India in 1910 and 1911. ‘On Seeing the Daibutsu’ appeared in Picked Poems (Chicago: Conkey, 1912). It might be compared to Kipling’s Buddha at Kamakura, a poem on the same subject written twenty years earlier.

Several volumes by Wilcox are in print in both the US and the UK. Of these, the largest collection of her verse is the 436-page Poems, available in the US here and in the UK here.

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