Honor Merited

IT COULDN’T BE DONE

by Edgar Guest

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: “Oh you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it”;
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

From the book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

 

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When Mother Cooked With Wood

by Edgar Guest

I do not quarrel with the gas;
our modern range is fine;
the ancient stove was domed to pass
from Time’s grim firing line.
Yet now and then there comes to me
the thought of dinners good
and pies and cake that used to be
when Mother cooked with wood.

The axe has vanished from the yard,
the chopping block is gone,
there is no pile of cord-wood hard
for boys to work upon;
there is no box that must be filled
each morning to the hood.
Time in its ruthlessness has willed
the passing of the wood.

And yet those days were fragrant days
and spicy days and rare;
the kitchen knew a cheerful blaze
and friendliness was there.
And every appetite was keen
for breakfasts that were good
when I had scarcely turned thirteen
and Mother cooked with wood.

I used to dread my daily chore,
I used to think it tough
when Mother at the kitchen door
said I’d not chopped enough.
And on her baking days, I know,
I shirked whene’er I could
in that now happy long ago
when Mother cooked with wood.

I never thought I’d wish to see
that pile of wood again;
back then it only seemed to me
a source of care and pain.
But now I’d gladly give my all
to stand where once I stood,
if those rare days I could recall
when Mother cooked with wood.

From the book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As I have written in other posts, I was raised by my aunt and uncle, apart from my family. We lived in the city of Saskatoon, SK; they lived in a little house in the tiny town of Pathlow. And I suppose we had natural gas heat like most folks would have, but when I’d go back to Pathlow and spend a week or so with my birth parents and siblings, I got to experience the joys of the old wood stove.

My Dad had piled firewood not far from the house, quite a huge stack, as I recall. About as high as I was and maybe fifteen feet in length, full of logs sawn to about two-foot long. Most of these were too round to cram into the stove whole, so my Dad or my brother had to split wood for the stove every few days. I can remember watching them setting logs up on end and swinging the axe to split the logs.

The axe would come down into the log and usually get stuck; rarely could the chopper slice a log clean through at one blow. So he’d lift axe and block together and bring it down again on the chopping block, splitting the log the rest of the way through — or at least a little farther. Repeat as necessary to get the axe all the way through.

The wood up in northern Saskatchewan was mostly poplar a very soft wood. No hard woods like the maple or oak Mr Guest would have been splitting in the Eastern US. He would have had his work cut out for him splitting those logs. Most of the logs could be halved, but some were chopped into thin strips of kindling that would catch fire fast.

The fire in the wood stove went out every night and had to be relit every morning — with very chilly fingers if it was winter. You needed paper and thin strips of kindling to light the fire and were very thankful when it started right away. In winter the bedrooms were icy so children often came down to the kitchen wrapped in their blankets, with clothes in one hand, to dress in front of the wood stove where it was warm.

We have a small wood-burning stove set up in our living room to keep us warm in case our electricity ever fails in cold weather. When the temperature drops to -20 C outside and the power goes off for several hours, you get a mite chilly! So my husband gets the wood stove going to keep the living area and kitchen warm. As the poet writes, there’s something quite pleasant about having a wood fire going.

What brought this to mind? I opened the door this morning to let the cats go outside for a bit and I smelled wood smoke. Somebody has a wood fire going and the smoke is drifting over this way.

I hope! I hope it’s not another forest fire burning in the north.

What Makes An Artist

bluebirds.blossoms

by Edgar Guest

We got to talking art one day,
discussing in a general way
how some can match with brush and paint
the glory of a tree,
and some in stone can catch the things
of which the dreaming poet sings,
while others seems to have no way
to tell the joys they see.

Old Blake had sat in silence there
and let each one of us declare
our notions of what’s known as art,
until he’d heard us through.
And then said he: “It seems to me
that any man whoe’er he be,
becomes an artist by the good
he daily tries to do.

He need not write the books men read
to be an artist. No, indeed!
He need not work with paint and brush
to show his love of art;
who does a kindly deed today
and helps another on his way
has painted beauty on a face
and played the poet’s part.

Though some of us cannot express
our inmost thoughts of loveliness,
we prove we love the beautiful
by how we act and live.
The poet singing of a tree
no greater poet is than he
who finds it in his heart some care
unto a tree to give.

Though he who works in marble-stone
the name of artist here may own,
no less an artist is the man
who guards his children well.
‘Tis art to love the fine and true;
by what we are and what we do
how much we love life’s nobler things
to all the world we tell.”

From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A Guest
© 1934 by The Reilly & Lee Company

Courage

by Edgar Guest

Courage isn’t a brilliant dash,
a daring deed in a moment’s flash;
it isn’t an instantaneous thing
born of despair with a sudden spring.
It isn’t a creature of flickered hope
or the final tug at a slipping rope;
but it’s something deep in the soul of man
that is working always to serve some plan.

Courage isn’t the last resort
in the work of life or the game of sport;
it isn’t a thing that man can call
at some future time when he’s apt to fall.
If he hasn’t it now, he will have it not
when the strain is great and the pace is hot.
For who would strive for a distant goal
must always have courage within his soul.

Courage isn’t a dazzling light
that flashes and passes away from sight’
it’s a slow, unwavering, ingrained trait
with the patience to work and the strength to wait.
It’s part of a man when his skies are blue;
it’s part of him when he has work to do;
The brave man never is freed of it.
He has it when there is no need of it.

Courage was never designed for show;
it isn’t a thing that can come and go;
it’s written in victory and defeat
and every trial a man may meet.
It’s part of his hours, his days and his years,
back of his smiles and behind his tears.
Courage is more than a daring deed:
it’s the breath of life and a strong man’s creed.

From his book A Heap O’ Livin’
© 1916 by the Reilly and Britton Co.

Apple Tree

In honor of the US National Literacy Awareness Month I’ll publish
this verse from one of America’s best-loved poets.

THE APPLE TREE

by Edgar Guest

When an apple tree is ready for the world to come and eat,
there isn’t any structure in the land that’s got it beat.
There’s nothing man has builded with the beauty or the charm
that can touch the simple grandeur of the monarch of the farm.
There’s never any picture from a human being’s brush
that has ever caught the redness of a single apple’s blush.

When an apple tree’s in blossom it is glorious to see,
but that’s just a hint, at springtime, of the better things to be;
that is just a fairy promise from the Great Magician’s wand
of the wonders and the splendors that are waiting just beyond
the distant edge of summer; just a forecast of the treat
when the apple tree is ready for the world to come and eat.

Architects of splendid vision long have labored on the earth
and have raised their dreams in marble and we’ve marveled at their worth;
long the spires of costly churches have looked upward at the sky;
rich in promise and in beauty, they have cheered the passer-by.
But I’m sure there’s nothing finer for the eye of man to meet
than an apple tree that’s ready for the world to come and eat.

There’s the promise of the apples, red and gleaming in the sun,
like the medals worn by mortals as rewards for labors done,
and the big arms stretched wide open with a welcome warm and true
in a way that sets you thinking it’s intended just for you.
There is nothing with a beauty so entrancing, so complete,
as an apple tree that’s ready for the world to come and eat.

From the book A Heap O’ Livin’
© 1916 by the Reilly & Britton Company

 

 

Summer Children

children balloons

THE SUMMER CHILDREN

by Edgar Guest

I like ’em in the winter when their cheeks are slightly pale,
I like ’em in the spring time when the March winds blow a gale;
But when summer suns have tanned ’em and they’re racing to and fro’,
I somehow think the children make the finest sort of show.

When they’re brown as little berries and they’re bare of foot and head,
And they’re on the go each minute where the velvet lawns are spread,
Then their health is at its finest and they never stop to rest,
Oh, it’s then I think the children look and are their very best.

We’ve got to know the winter and we’ve got to know the spring,
But for children, could I do it, unto summer I would cling;
For I’m happiest when I see ’em, as a wild and merry band
Of healthy, lusty youngsters that the summer sun has tanned.

Vacation Time

by Edgar Guest

Vacation time! How glad it seemed
When as a boy I sat and dreamed
Above my school books, of the fun
That I should claim when toil was done;
And, oh, how oft my youthful eye
Went wandering with the patch of sky

That drifted by the window panes
O’er pleasant fields and dusty lanes,
Where I would race and romp and shout
The very moment school was out.
My artful little fingers then
Feigned labor with the ink and pen.

But heart and mind were far away,
Engaged in some glad bit of play.
The last two weeks dragged slowly by;
Time hadn’t then learned how to fly.
It seemed the clock upon the wall
From hour to hour could only crawl,

And when the teacher called my name,
Unto my cheeks the crimson came,
For I could give no answer clear
To questions that I didn’t hear.
“Wool gathering, were you?” oft she said
And smiled to see me blushing red.

Her voice had roused me from a dream
Where I was fishing in a stream,
And, if I now recall it right,
Just at the time I had a bite.
And now my youngsters dream of play
In just the very selfsame way;

And they complain that time is slow
And that the term will never go.
Their little minds with plans are filled
For joyous hours they soon will build,
And it is vain for me to say,
That have grown old and wise and gray.

That time is swift and joy is brief;
They’ll put no faith in such belief.
To youthful hearts that long for play
Time is a laggard on the way.
‘T’was, oh, so slow to me back then
Ere I had learned the ways of men!