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Poems about Life

    by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream, and not make dreams your master;
If you can think, and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings, nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!


Success is Counted Sweetest
    by Emily Dickinson

SUCCESS is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the purple host
Who took the flag to-day
Can tell the definition,
So clear, of victory,

As he, defeated, dying,
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Break, agonized and clear.


The Beauty Does Not Live Out There
    by Jonathan Lockwood Huie

The tears, the smiles, the pain, the ease; today is what I’ve got.
I change not fact, but what I see; with Joy I cast my lot.
The beauty does not live out there; the beauty’s in my eyes.
The scene may change, the cast may leave; the beauty never dies.


    by Robert Browning

The sweetest lives are those to duty wed,
Whose deeds, both great and small,
Are close knit strands of an unbroken thread,
Whose love ennobles all.
The world may sound no trumpet, ring no bells;
The book of life, the shining record tells.
Thy love shall chant its own beatitudes,
After its own life-working. A child's kiss
Set on thy singing lips shall make thee glad;
A poor man served by thee shall make thee rich;
A sick man helped by thee shall make thee strong;
Thou shalt be served thyself by every sense
Of service thou renderest.


Today Is Your Day To Dance Lightly With Life
    by Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Today is your day to dance lightly with life,
sing wild songs of adventure,
invite rainbows and butterflies out to play,
soar your spirit, and unfurl your joy.

Today is your day to paint life in bold colors,
set today's rhythm with your heart-drum,
walk today's march with courage,
create today as your celebration of life.

Today is your day to practice whimsey,
skip on the beach, and play with the waves,
watch wondrous cloud animals parade your story,
find a magical white bunny down every rabbit hole.

Today is your day to laugh at life,
laugh at what's funny - laugh at what's sad,
laugh loud - laugh often,
laugh at me - laugh at you - laugh at life.

Today is your day to honor your being,
release each and every struggle,
gather strength from life's storms,
relax into the arms of spirit.

Today is your day to see in yourself the face of god.
Your mind sparks, your soul sparkles.
Your peace is counterpoint to the clamor of life.
You are a magnificent gift to the world.


    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all;
There are none to decline your nectar'd wine,
But alone you must drink life's gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.


The River of Life
    by Jonathan Lockwood Huie

The River of Life flows without emotion.
The River surges. The River quiets.
The River overflows its banks. The River dries to a trickle.
The River swirls and storms. The River becomes calm.
The River runs clear. The River runs dark with silt.
The River is indifferent to what benefit or what harm is caused by its water.
The River is the River, and that is all there is to it.

The River of Life has no judgments.
The River flows with no concept of good and bad - right and wrong.
The fields and dreams of men may be nourished by the River of Life, or flooded and covered with silt, and the River just flows.
Men may catch fish and live on the River of Life, or they may founder in a storm and drown, and the River just flows.

The River of Life is timeless.
It is not unchanging, but it is timeless, and it changes in its own time.

The River of Life knows no obstacles.
The River can cut through solid rock - in its own time.

The River of Life is not powerful - and it is not weak.
The River of Life is not gentle - and it is not strong or rough.
The River of Life is not deep or shallow.
The River of Life is not nourishing or punishing.
The River of Life is simply the River of Life.
The River of Life just IS. There is no more to it.

The River of Life has no meaning, no good, no bad, no better, no worse, no love, no hate, no fear, no anger, no joy.
The River of Life has no judgment, no expectation.
The River of Life just IS.

There is nothing to do.
There is nothing to say.
There is nothing to think.
There is nothing to feel.
The River just flows.

The River is the source of all nourishment - the source of all obstacles.
The River is the source of all life - the source of all death.
The River is the source of all joy - and the source of all sorrow.
Yet the River has no joy - and the River has no sorrow.
The River is just the River.

One can flow harmoniously with the River - or one can struggle fearfully against the River - and the River just flows.
One can accept the River - or one can deny the River - and the River just flows.
One can worship the River of Life - or one can curse the River of Life - and the River just flows.

There is nothing to do - and the River flows.
There is nothing to say - and the River flows.
There is nothing to think - and the River flows.
There is nothing to feel - and the River flows.
The River flows - and all else is our drama.
The River flows - and all else is our invention.

I choose to flow with the River of Life.


Life is a Privilege
    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Life is a privilege. Its youthful days
Shine with the radiance of continuous Mays.
To live, to breathe, to wonder and desire,
To feed with dreams the heart's perpetual fire,
To thrill with virtuous passions, and to glow
With great ambitions - in one hour to know
The depths and heights of feeling - God! in truth,
How beautiful, how beautiful is youth!

Life is a privilege. Like some rare rose
The mysteries of the human mind unclose.
What marvels lie in earth, and air, and sea!
What stores of knowledge wait our opening key!
What sunny roads of happiness lead out
Beyond the realms of indolence and doubt!
And what large pleasures smile upon and bless
The busy avenues of usefulness!

Life is a privilege. Though noontide fades
And shadows fall along the winding glades,
Though joy-blooms wither in the autumn air,
Yet the sweet scent of sympathy is there.
Pale sorrow leads us closer to our kind,
And in the serious hours of life we find
Depths in the souls of men which lend new worth
And majesty to this brief span of earth.

Life is a privilege. If some sad fate
Sends us alone to seek the exit gate,
If men forsake us and as shadows fall,
Still does the supreme privilege of all
Come in that reaching upward of the soul
To find the welcoming Presence at the goal,
And in the Knowledge that our feet have trod
Paths that led from, and must wind back, to God.


    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

All in the dark we grope along,
And if we go amiss
We learn at least which path is wrong,
And there is gain in this.

We do not always win the race
By only running right;
We have to tread the mountain's base
Before we reach its height.

The Christs alone no errors made;
So often had they trod
The paths that lead through light and shade,
They had become as God.

As Krishna, Buddha, Christ again,
They passed along the way,
And left those mighty truths which men
But dimly grasp to-day.

But he who loves himself the last
And knows the use of pain,
Though strewn with errors all his past,
He surely shall attain.

Some souls there are that needs must taste
Of wrong, ere choosing right;
We should not call those years a waste
Which led us to the light.


Never Mind
    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Whatever your work and whatever its worth,
No matter how strong or clever,
Some one will sneer if you pause to hear,
And scoff at your best endeavour.
For the target art has a broad expanse,
And wherever you chance to hit it,
Though close be your aim to the bull's-eye fame,
There are those who will never admit it.

Though the house applauds while the artist plays,
And a smiling world adores him,
Somebody is there with an ennuied air
To say that the acting bores him.
For the tower of art has a lofty spire,
With many a stair and landing,
And those who climb seem small oft-time
To one at the bottom standing.

So work along in your chosen niche
With a steady purpose to nerve you;
Let nothing men say who pass your way
Relax your courage or swerve you.
The idle will flock by the Temple of Art
For just the pleasure of gazing;
But climb to the top and do not stop,
Though they may not all be praising.


What They Saw
    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Sad man, Sad man, tell me, pray,
What did you see to-day?

I saw the unloved and unhappy old, waiting for slow delinquent death to come;
Pale little children toiling for the rich, in rooms where sunlight is ashamed to go;
The awful almshouse, where the living dead rot slowly in their hideous open graves.
And there were shameful things.
Soldiers and forts, and industries of death, and devil-ships, and loud-winged devil-birds,
All bent on slaughter and destruction. These and yet more shameful things mine eyes beheld:
Old men upon lascivious conquest bent, and young men living with no thought of God,
And half-clothed women puffing at a weed, aping the vices of the underworld,
Engrossed in shallow pleasures and intent on being barren wives.
These things I saw.
(How God must loathe His earth!)

Glad man, Glad man, tell me, pray.
What did you see to-day?

I saw an agèd couple, in whose eyes
Shone that deep light of mingled love and faith,
Which makes the earth one room of paradise,
And leaves no sting in death.

I saw vast regiments of children pour,
Rank after rank, out of the schoolroom door
By Progress mobilised. They seemed to say:
'Let ignorance make way.
We are the heralds of a better day.'

I saw the college and the church that stood
For all things sane and good.
I saw God's helpers in the shop and slum
Blazing a path for health and hope to come,
And True Religion, from the grave of creeds,
Springing to meet man's needs.

I saw great Science reverently stand
And listen for a sound from Border-land,
No longer arrogant with unbelief -
Holding itself aloof -
But drawing near, and searching high and low
For that complete and all-convincing proof
Which shall permit its voice to comfort grief,
Saying, 'We know.'

I saw fair women in their radiance rise
And trample old traditions in the dust.
Looking in their clear eyes,
I seemed to hear these words as from the skies:
'He who would father our sweet children must
Be worthy of the trust.'

Against the rosy dawn, I saw unfurled
The banner of the race we usher in,
The supermen and women of the world,
Who make no code of sex to cover sin;
Before they till the soil of parenthood,
They look to it that seed and soil are good.

And I saw, too, that old, old sight, and best -
Pure mothers, with dear babies at the breast.
These things I saw.
(How God must love His earth!)


As You Go Through Life
    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Don't look for the flaws as you go through life;
And even when you find them,
It is wise and kind to be somewhat blind,
And look for the virtue behind them;
For the cloudiest night has a hint of light
Somewhere in its shadows hiding;
It's better by far to hunt for a star,
Than the spots on the sun abiding.

The current of life runs ever away
To the bosom of God's great ocean.
Don't set your force 'gainst the river's course,
And think to alter its motion.
Don't waste a curse on the universe,
Remember, it lived before you;
Don't butt at the storm with your puny form,
But bend and let it go o'er you.

The world will never adjust itself
To suit your whims to the letter,
Some things must go wrong your whole life long,
And the sooner you know it the better.
It is folly to fight with the Infinite,
And go under at last in the wrestle.
The wiser man shapes into God's plan,
As water shapes into a vessel.


Was, Is, and Yet-To-Be
    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Was, Is, and Yet-to-Be
Were chatting over a cup of tea.

In tarnished finery smelling of must,
Was talked of people long turned to dust;

Of titles and honours and high estate,
All forgotten or out of date;

Of wonderful feasts in the long ago,
Of pride that perished with nothing to show.

"I loathe the present," said Was, with a groan;
"I live in pleasures that I have known."

The Yet-to-be, in a gown of gauze,
Looked over the head of musty Was,

And gazed far off into misty space
With a wrapt expression upon her face.

"Such wonderful pleasures are coming to me,
Such glory, such honour," said Yet-to-be.

"No one dreamed, in the vast Has-Been,
Of such successes as I shall win.

"The past, the present - why, what are they?
I live for the joy of a future day."

Then practical Is, in a fresh print dress,
Spoke up with a laugh, "I must confess

"I find to-day so pleasant," she said,
"I never look back, and seldom ahead.

"Whatever has been, is a finished sum;
Whatever will be - why, let it come.

"To-day is mine. And so, you see,
I have the past and the yet-to-be;

"For to-day is the future of yesterday,
And the past of to-morrow. I live while I may,

"And I think the secret of pleasure is this.
And this alone," said practical Is.


    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

God sent us here to make mistakes,
To strive, to fail, to re-begin,
To taste the tempting fruit of sin,
And find what bitter food it makes,

To miss the path, to go astray,
To wander blindly in the night;
But, searching, praying for the light,
Until at last we find the way.

And looking back along the past,
We know we needed all the strain
Of fear and doubt and strife and pain
To make us value peace, at last.

Who fails, finds later triumph sweet;
Who stumbles once, walks then with care,
And knows the place to cry "Beware"
To other unaccustomed feet.

Through strife the slumbering soul awakes,
We learn on error's troubled route
The truths we could not prize without
The sorrow of our sad mistakes.


    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I must do as you do? Your way I own
Is a very good way. And still,
There are sometimes two straight roads to a town,
One over, one under the hill.

You are treading the safe and the well-worn way,
That the prudent choose each time;
And you think me reckless and rash to-day,
Because I prefer to climb.

Your path is the right one, and so is mine.
We are not like peas in a pod,
Compelled to lie in a certain line,
Or else be scattered abroad.

'Twere a dull old world, methinks, my friend,
If we all went just one way;
Yet our paths will meet no doubt at the end,
Though they lead apart to-day.

You like the shade, and I like the sun;
You like an even pace,
I like to mix with the crowd and run,
And then rest after the race.

I like danger, and storm and strife,
You like a peaceful time;
I like the passion and surge of life,
You like its gentle rhyme.

You like buttercups, dewy sweet,
And crocuses, framed in snow;
I like roses, born of the heat,
And the red carnation's glow.

I must live my life, not yours, my friend,
For so it was written down;
We must follow our given paths to the end,
But I trust we shall meet -- in town.


"It Might Have Been"
    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

We will be what we could be. Do not say,
"It might have been, had not or that, or this."
No fate can keep us from the chosen way;
He only might, who IS.

We will do what we could do. Do not dream
Chance leaves a hero, all uncrowned to grieve.
I hold, all men are greatly what they seem;
He does, who could achieve.

We will climb where we could climb. Tell me not
Of adverse storms that kept thee from the height.
What eagle ever missed the peak he sought?
He always climbs who might.

I do not like the phrase, "It might have been!"
It lacks all force, and life's best truths perverts
For I believe we have, and reach, and win,
Whatever our deserts.


Preaching vs. Practice
    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

It is easy to sit in the sunshine
And talk to the man in the shade;
It is easy to float in a well-trimmed boat,
And point out the places to wade.

But once we pass into the shadows,
We murmur and fret and frown,
And, our length from the bank, we shout for a plank,
Or throw up our hands and go down.

It is easy to sit in your carriage,
And counsel the man on foot,
But get down and walk, and you'll change your talk,
As you feel the peg in your boot.

It is easy to tell the toiler
How best he can carry his pack,
But no one can rate a burden's weight
Until it has been on his back.

The up-curled mouth of pleasure,
Can prate of sorrow's worth,
But give it a sip, and a wryer lip,
Was never made on earth.


    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Gypsying, gypsying, through the world together,
Never mind the way we go, never mind what port.
Follow trails, or fashion sails, start in any weather:
While we journey hand in hand, everything is sport.

Gypsying, gypsying, leaving care and worry:
Never mind the 'if' and 'but' (words for coward lips).
Put them out with 'fear' and 'doubt,' in the pack with 'hurry,'
While we stroll like vagabonds forth to trails, or ships.

Gypsying, gypsying, just where fancy calls us;
Never mind what others say, or what others do.
Everywhere or foul or fair, liking what befalls us:
While you have me at your side, and while I have you.

Gypsying, gypsying, camp by hill or hollow;
Never mind the why of it, since it suits our mood.
Go or stay, and pay our way, and let those who follow
Find, upspringing from the soil, some small seed of good.

Gypsying, gypsying, through the world we wander:
Never mind the rushing years, that have come and gone.
There must be for you and me, lying over Yonder,
Other lands, where side by side we can gypsy on.


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