Wise words from Edgar A Guest
‘Tis better to have tried in vain
sincerely striving for a goal,
than to have lived upon the plain
an idle and a timid soul.
‘Tis better to have fought and spent
your courage, missing all applause,
than to have lived in smug content
and never ventured for a cause.
For he who tries and fails may be
the founder of a better day;
though never his the victory,
from him shall others learn the way.
From his book A Heap O’ Livin’
Tonight my contribution to National Poetry Month will be a verse by one of my favourite poets, Edgar Albert Guest. According to Wiki he was often referred to as “the People’s Poet” and penned some 11,000 verses in his time, most of them upbeat and inspirational.
He wrote lines the common people could understand; his subjects were about home & family, everyday life, and old-fashioned virtues. He often encouraged readers to be thankful, quit grumbling, and do their best whatever the circumstances —as the following poem illustrates. If Mr Guest sounds overly moralistic at times, we must remember that he lived from 1881-1959, saw the country go through two World Wars as well as the Stock Market crash and the Great Depression. Not an era to wimp out.
The Birch Tree
Out of a jutting rock, wind blown,
a birch tree braves the world alone.
A crevice in the granite first
captured the seed; a wave immersed
that tiny embryo. The sun
warmed it — and thus was life begun.
Scant food the passing breezes give
and yet that tree contrives to live!
Cruel the clutch of granite gray,
yet the brave roots from day to day
into the great stone deeper creep,
a surer hold on life to keep.
Twisted and bent some limbs appear,
but still undaunted year by year
those roots in cheerless channels sunk
courageously support the trunk
and green against the lake and sky,
a birch tree catches every eye!
Man thinks he knows what nature wills.
But much he plants the winter kills,
while far away from human care
and on a cliff by storms swept bare,
denied the commonest of needs,
a birch tree silently succeeds!
From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co
by Edgar Guest
The mind is that mysterious thing
which makes the toiler and the king.
It is the realm of thought where dwells
the nursery rhymes the father tells.
It is the source of all that gives
high color to the life he lives.
It starts the smile or shapes the frown,
it lifts man up or holds him down.
It marks the happy singing lad,
it marks the neighbor kind and glad,
and world wide over this we find —
a man is fashioned by his mind.
How strange it is that what we see
and seem to cherish tenderly
is not the outward garb of clay,
for all are formed the self-same way.
Not in the hands and legs and cheeks,
not in the common voice which speaks,
lies man’s identity on earth—
all these come with the gift of birth.
But love and friendship and delight
lie in a world that’s hid from sight.
The mind of all is master still
to fashion them for good or ill.
So men and women here are wrought
by this strange hidden power of thought
and each becomes in life the thing
the mind has long been fashioning.
Man’s body moves and eats and drinks
and but reflects the thoughts he thinks.
His every action leaves behind
merely the prompting of his mind.
Bad men have arms and legs and eyes.
That which we cherish or despise
and shapes each individual soul
is wholly in the mind’s control.
From the Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest
© 1934 by the Reilly & Lee Company
by Edgar Guest
I look into the faces of the people passing by,
the glad ones and the sad ones, and the lined with misery
and I wonder why the sorrow or the twinkle in the eye;
but the pale and weary faces are the ones that trouble me.
I saw a face this morning and time was when it was fair;
youth had brushed it bright with color in the distant long ago
and the princess of the lovely once had kept a temple there,
but the cheeks were pale with grieving and the eyes were dull with woe.
Who has done this thing, I wondered; what has wrought the ruin here?
Why are these sunken cheeks and pallid where the roses once were pink?
Why had beauty fled her palace; did some vandal hand appear?
Did her lover prove unfaithful or her husband take to drink?
Once the golden voice of promise whispered sweetly in her ears;
she was born to be a garden where the smile of love might lurk;
now the eyes that shone like jewels are but gateways for her tears
and she takes her place among us, toilers early bound for work.
Is it fate that writes so sadly, or the cruelty of man?
What foul deed has marred the parchment of a life so fair as this?
What has wrecked this lovely temple and destroyed the Maker’s plan,
raining blows on cheeks of beauty God had fashioned just to kiss?
Oh, the pale and weary faces of the people that I see
are the ones that seem to haunt me, and I pray to God above
that such cruel desolation shall not ever come to be
stamped forever in the future on the faces that I love.
From the book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co
To An Old Friend
by Edgar A. Guest
When we have lived our little lives
and wandered all their byways through,
when we’ve seen all that we shall see
and finished all that we must do,
when we shall take one backward look
off yonder where our journey ends,
I pray that you shall be as glad as I
shall be that we were friends.
Time was we started out to find
the treasures and the joys of life;
we sought them in the land of gold
through many days of bitter strife.
When we were young we yearned for fame;
in search of joy we went afar,
only to learn how very cold
and distant all the strangers are.
When we have met all we shall meet
and know what destiny has planned,
I shall rejoice in that last hour that I
have known your friendly hand.
I shall go singing down the way
off yonder as my sun descends
as one who’s had a happy life,
made glorious by the best of friends.
From Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co
The Ragtag prompt for today is Collection. Well, since this blog is all about my collected writings, I can hardly pass that one up. 🙂
Someone once said, “It seems a shame to especially collect things, seeing how things so easily collect on their own.”
Speaking of things that collect on their own, here’s a poem by Edgar Guest, who had a problem with his daughter’s collection:
Janet has a pair of rabbits just as white as winter’s snow
which she begged of me to purchase just a week or two ago.
She found the man who raised them and she took me over there
to show me all his bunnies, at a dollar for a pair,
and she pleaded to possess them so I looked at her and said:
“Will you promise every morning to make sure that they are fed?”
She promised she would love them and she promised she would see
they had lettuce leaves to nibble and were cared for tenderly.
And she looked at me astounded when I said, “I should regret
buying pretty bunnies for you if to feed them you’d forget.
Once there was a little fellow, just about as old as you
who forgot to feed the rabbits which he’d owned a week or two.”
“He forgot to feed his rabbits!” said my Janet in dismay.
“Yes,” I said, “as I remember, he’d go scampering off to play.
And his mother or his daddy later on would go to see
if his pretty little bunnies had been cared for properly,
and they’d shake their heads in sorrow and remark it seems too bad
that rabbits should belong to such a thoughtless little lad.”
“Who was the boy?” she asked me, and the truth to her I told,
“A little boy you’ve never seen who now is gray and old.
Some folks say you’re just like him,” but she looked at me and said:
“I won’t forget my bunnies! I’ll make sure that they are fed!”
And she bravely kept her promise for about a week or two,
but today I fed the rabbits, as I knew I’d have to do.
From the Collected Works of Edgar A Guest