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Earth, the World and I by Charlotte Perkins Stetson

"CHILD," said the Earth to me,
"What can you do?
Why do you try?
Can you not see
That all you are and can ever be
Is the product of Heredity —
Merely the outcome, sure and true,
Of other lives gone by?
Because your ancestors were such,
Back to primeval slime,
Therefore you ail and sin so much,
Therefore 'tis waste of time
For you to seek to steer your course
Free of this cumulative force.
Beast, plant and rock, your story runs
Back to the power that swings the suns;
And can you disobey the laws
That move you from the primal cause?
Peace, fretful child! Be still!
And do my will!"

"Child," said the World to me,
"What can you do?
Why do you try?
Can you not see
That all the effort you have spent
Is the product of Environment —
That your surroundings govern you,
And circumstances nigh?
Because you're born in such an age,
Because you're taught from such a page,
Because your friends are so and so —
Therefore you act and feel and know
Just as you do. In vain you've tried
To throw this influence aside.
Fruit of your century and race,
Your family and dwelling-place,
Your education, work and friends —
You have no individual ends!
Peace, fretful child! Be still!
And do my will!"

Said I to the Earth: "Dear Dirt,
Your remarks don't hurt,
Being peacefully, perfectly true —
But the fact of my coming from you
Does not alter another, my dear —
This fact — I am here!
Evolution's long effort to Be
Has resulted in me,
And I hark with respect to your tones
As I would to my bones
Should their feelings new utterance give,
Should they say, 'We allow you to live!'
Heredity? Yes, I admit
All you're claiming for it.
The "first cause" is still running your ranch
But I'm a collateral branch!
In which the same power is set free,
To be handled by me.
You don't see it? No matter, old friend,
It's all one in the end."

Said I to the World: "I can take
No offense at the statements you make.
They are truthful as far as they go —
But there's much you don't know.
Your power you correctly define,
But you fail to see mine.
You make me, in part, it is true —
But, my friend, who makes you?
The environment's force on our race
Is not climate or place
So much as each new demonstration
Of our social relation.
Our strongest impressions we take
From conditions we make;
And when we don't like the effect
We can change — can select;
Can unmake and remake and choose
The conditions we use!
Just think what the product will be
When I make you make me!"


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