Team Work

by Edgar Guest

It’s all very well to have courage and skill
and it’s fine to be counted a star,
But the single deed with its touch of thrill
doesn’t tell us the man you are.
For there’s no lone hand in the game we play;
we must work to a bigger scheme.
And the thing that counts in the world today
is, ‘How did you pull with the team?’

They may sound your praise and call you great,
they may single you out for fame,
but you must work with your running mate
or you’ll never win the game.
Oh, never the work of a life is done
by the man with a selfish dream,
for the battle is lost or the battle is won
by the spirit of the team.

That Foul Fiend “I CAN’T”

CAN’T

by Edgar Guest

Can’t is the worst word that’s written or spoken;
doing more harm here than slander and lies;
on it is many a strong spirit broken,
and with it many a good purpose dies.

It springs from the lips of the thoughtless each morning
and robs us of courage we need through the day;
it rings in our ears like a timely-sent warning
and laughs when we falter and fall by the way.

Can’t is the father o feeble endeavor,
the parent of terror and half-hearted work;
it weakens the efforts of artisans clever
and makes of the toiler an indolent shirk.

It poisons the soul of the man with a vision;
it stifles in infancy many a plan;
it greets honest toiling with open derision
and mocks at the hopes and the dreams of a man.

Can’t is a word none should speak without blushing;
to utter it should be a symbol of shame.
Ambition and courage it daily is crushing;
it blights a man’s purpose and shorten his aim.

Despise it with all of your hatred of error;
refuse it the lodgment it seeks in your brain;
arm against it as a creature of terror
and all that you dream of, you someday shall gain.

Can’t is the word that is foe to ambition,
an enemy ambushed to shatter your will;
its prey is forever the man with a mission
and bows but to courage and patience and skill.

Hate it, with hatred that’s deep and undying,
for once it is welcomed ‘twill break any man;
whatever the goal you are seeking, keep trying
and answer this demon by saying, “I CAN.”

From his book, Along Life’s Highway
© 1933 by the Reilly and Lee Company

The Golden Chance

by Edgar Guest

There is in life this golden chance
for every valiant soul,
the un-penned poem or romance—
the undiscovered goal.

Beyond the sum of all we know
and all that man has done,
life holds a never-ending row
of glories to be won.

Still waits the canvas for the paint,
the paper for the pen;
still searches Faith to find a saint
among the ranks of men.

Though man, it seems, has traveled far
along achievement’s way,
his conquests and his triumphs are
but splendors for a day.

In all that is of paint and print,
and marvels which we see,
life gives us but the faintest hint
of splendors yet to be.

On still untraveled roads of fame
the feet of men shall climb,
far nobler goals than ours to claim
from the rich lap of time.

Unreckoned genius yet unborn
undreamed-of deeds shall do.
Night ends the old; with every morn
life bids us start the new.

From the Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest
© 1934 by the Reilly & Lee Company

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

 

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.