Folly and Complacency went singing through the dark,
They paused before a window that showed a candle’s spark.
“Come forth, come forth and join us or bid us entrance win!”
“Nay, I’ve a wheel a-turning and I have wool to spin;
Unless your hands may aid me ye shall not enter in.”
Folly and Complacency went singing through the night;
They paused before a casement that showed a shining light.
“Now bid us in, old Comrade, to revel until day!”
“Nay, I’ve a sword to sharpen to keep a foe at bay;
Unless your hands may aid me I speed you on your way.”
Oh, there are swords to sharpen and there is wool to spin,
And woe betide the foolish ones who let these wastrels in!
At the cost of a dulled sword a people may be sold;
For lack of warmth a nation may perish in the cold,
And unto us the reckoning and price thereof be told.
Folly and Complacency–on our heads be the sin
If once our hands should slacken, our voices bid you in.
While there’s a sword to sharpen, while there’s a wheel to turn,
A word to say, a prayer to pray, a signal light to burn,
God give us strength and wakefulness to match the wage we earn.
This World War I-era poem was first printed in the March 1918 issue of McClure’s Magazine.