Selected Quotes & Poetry
"DURING THE SACRAMENT"
There was envy in the glances that a lovely woman cast
At the hairdo of her neighbor while the sacrament was past.
And a teenage girl I noticed, though a timid lass and shy,
Watched the youthful priests intently out the corner of her eye,
Where they sat behind the table where the water trays were spread,
She was not remembering Jesus, nor the words the priest had said.
And there was nothing reverential about the things the Cub Scout drew
On the pages of the Hymn book ‘til the sacrament was through.
And not a thought of Jesus’ sufferings entered careless Elder’s minds,
As they whispered to each other and the girls they sat behind.
A High Priest’s brow was furrowed as he stole a secret glance
At his checkbook’s dismal story of his failures in finance.
There were hundreds in the meeting, but the worshipers were few.
And I couldn’t help but wonder what the Lord Himself would do.
I couldn’t help but wonder what the Lord Himself would say,
If He walked into a meeting where His saints behaved this way.
Would His loving eyes be saddened? Would His countenance be grim,
As He there observed and listened to a meeting meant for Him?
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
‘There’s nothing great
Nor small’, has said a poet of our day,
Whose voice will ring beyond the curfew of eve
And not be thrown out by the matin’s bell:
And truly, I reiterate, nothing’s small!
No lily-muffled hum of a summer-bee,
But finds some coupling with the spinning stars;
No pebble at your foot, but proves a sphere;
No chaffinch, but implies the cherubim;
And (glancing on my own thin, veinèd wrist),
In such a little tremor of the blood
The whole strong clamour of a vehement soul
Doth utter itself distinct. Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more from the first similitude.
(From "Aurora Leigh")
“Quit! Give up! You’re beaten!” they shout at me, and plead.
“There’s just too much against you now, this time you can’t succeed.”
And as I start to hang my head in front of failure’s face,
My downward fall is broken by the memory of a race.
And hope refills my weakened will, as I recall that scene,
For just the thought of that short race rejuvenates my being.
They all lined up so full of hope, each thought to win that race.
Or tie for first, or if not that, at least take second place.
And fathers watched from off the side, each cheering for his son,
And each boy hoped to show his dad, that he would be the one.
The whistle blew, and off they went, young hearts and hopes afire,
To win and be the hero there was each young boy’s desire.
And one boy in particular, whose dad was in the crowd,
Was running near the head, and thought, “My dad will be so proud!”
But as he fell, his dad stood up, and showed his anxious face,
Which to the boy so clearly said, “Get up and win the race.”
He quickly rose, no damage done, behind a bit, that’s all,
And ran with all his mind and might to make up for his fall.
So anxious to restore himself, to catch up and to win,
His mind went faster than his legs; he slipped and fell again!
He wished then he had quit before with only one disgrace.
“I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.”
But in the laughing crowd he searched, and found his father’s face,
that steady look that said again, “Get up and win the race!”
So up he jumped to try again, ten yards behind the last,
“If I’m to gain those yards,” he thought, “I’ve got to move real fast.”
Exceeding everything he had he gained back eight or ten,
But trying so to catch the lead, he slipped and fell again.
Defeat! He lay there silently, a tear dropped from his eye.
“There is no sense in running more. Three strikes, I’m out, why try?”
The will to rise had disappeared, all hope had fled away.
So far behind, so error prone, a loser all the way.
“I’ve lost, so what’s the use,” he thought, “I’ll live with my disgrace.”
But then he thought about his dad, who soon he’d have to face.
“Get up!” an echo sounded low, “Get up, and take your place.
You were not meant for failure here, get up and win the race.”
“With borrowed will get up,” it said, “You have not lost at all.
For winning is no more than this: to rise each time you fall.”
So up he rose to run once more, and with a new commit,
He resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn’t quit.
So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been,
Still he gave it all he had, and ran as though to win.
Three times he’d fallen stumbling, three times he’d rose again,
Too far behind to hope to win he still ran to the end.
They cheered the winning runner, as he crossed the line first place.
Head high and proud and happy, no falling, no disgrace.
But when the fallen youngster crossed the finish line last place,
The crowd gave him the greater cheer for finishing the race.
And even though he came in last, with head bowed low, unproud,
You would have thought he won the race to listen to the crowd.
And to his dad, he sadly said, “I didn’t do so well.”
“To me you won!” his father said, “You rose each time you fell.”
And when things seem dark and hard, and difficult to face,
The memory of that little boy helps me to win my race.
For all of life is like that race, with ups and downs and all,
And all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.
“Quit! Give up! You’re beaten!” they still shout in my face.
But another voice within me says: “GET UP AND WIN THE RACE!”
James Patrick Kinney
"THE COLD WITHIN"
Six humans trapped by happenstance … in bleak and bitter cold.
Each one possessed a stick of wood, or so the story’s told.
Their dying fire in need of logs, the first man held his back,
For of the faces round the fire, he noticed one was black.
The next man looking cross the way, saw one not of his church,
And couldn’t bring himself to give the fire his stick of birch.
The third one sat in tattered clothes; he gave his coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use to warm the idle rich?
The rich man just sat back and thought of the wealth he had in store,
And how to keep what he had earned from the lazy, shiftless poor.
The black man’s face bespoke revenge as the fire passed from his sight.
For all he saw in his stick of wood was a chance to spite the white.
The last man of this forlorn group did naught except for gain,
Giving only to those who gave was how he played the game.
Their logs held tight in death’s still hand was proof of human sin,
They didn’t die from the cold without. They died from the cold within.
(“The Cold Within”)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
(From "The Ladder of St. Augustine")
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “A Psalm
of Life” (1838), in The Complete Poetical Works
of Longfellow (Boston: Houghton Mifflin;
Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1922), 3.
"A FENCE OR AN AMBULANCE?"
'Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, "Put a fence 'round the edge of the cliff,"
Some, "An ambulance down in the valley."
But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For it spread through the neighboring city;
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became full of pity
For those who slipped over the dangerous cliff;
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds and gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.
"For the cliff is all right, if you're careful," they said,
"And, if folks even slip and are dropping,
It isn't the slipping that hurts them so much
As the shock down below when they're stopping."
So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would those rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
With their ambulance down in the valley.
Then an old sage remarked: "It's a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing results than to stopping the cause,
When they'd much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief," cried he,
"Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally;
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley."
"Oh he's a fanatic," the others rejoined,
"Dispense with the ambulance? Never!
He'd dispense with all charities, too, if he could;
No! No! We'll support them forever.
Aren't we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence,
While the ambulance works in the valley?"
But the sensible few, who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;
They believe that prevention is better than cure,
And their party will soon be the stronger.
Encourage them then, with your purse, voice, and pen,
And while other philanthropists dally,
They will scorn all pretense, and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.
Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling.
"To rescue the fallen is good, but 'tis best
To prevent other people from falling."
Better close up the source of temptation and crime
Than deliver from dungeon or galley;
Better put a strong fence 'round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.
-Joseph Malins (1895)
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated need but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
("An Essay on Man," Epistle II)
[Pope describes the predicament of fallen man struggling to find his identity]
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkley wise and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between, in doubt to act or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God or Beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little or too much;
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused or disabused;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great Lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd;
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world! …
Fix'd like a plant on his peculiar spot,
To draw nutrition, propagate, and rot.…
On life's vast ocean diversely we sail,
Reason the card, but Passion is the gale. …
And hence one Master-passion in the breast,
Like Aaron's serpent, swallows up the rest.
("An Essay on Man," Epistle II)
When we are young, we are slavishly employed in procuring something whereby we may live comfortably when we grow old; and when we are old, we perceive it is too late to live as we proposed.
Words are like Leaves; and where they most abound,
Much Fruit of Sense beneath is rarely found.
False Eloquence, like the Prismatic Glass,
Its gawdy Colours spreads on ev'ry place;
The Face of Nature was no more Survey,
All glares alike, without Distinction gay:
But true Expression, like th' unchanging Sun,
Clears, and improves whate'er it shines upon,
It gilds all Objects, but it alters none.
From Essay on Criticism (1688-1744)
A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the *Pierian spring;
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fir'd at first sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Arts,
While from the bounded level of our mind
Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind;
But more advanc'd, behold with strange surprise
New distant scenes of endless science rise!
So pleas'd at first the towering Alps we try,
Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky,
Th' eternal snows appear already past,
And the first clouds and mountains seem the last;
But, those attain'd, we tremble to survey
The growing labours of the lengthen'd way,
Th' increasing prospects tire our wand'ring eyes,
Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise!"
From Essay on Criticism (1688-1744)
*In Greek mythology it was said that those who drank of the Pierian spring would be graced with knowledge and inspiration.
What win I if I gain the thing I seek?
A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy:
Who buys a minute’s mirth to wail a week?
Or sells eternity to get a toy?
For one sweet grape who will the vine destroy?
Or what fond beggar, but to touch the crown,
Would with the scepter straight be stricken down?
(From "The Rape of Lucrece")
Youth and love are oft impatient,
Seeking things beyond their reach;
And the heart grows faint with hoping
Ere it learns what life can teach.
For before the fruit be gathered
We must see the blossoms fall,
And the waiting time, my brothers,
Is the hardest time of all.
We can bear the heat of conflict,
Though the sudden crushing blow
Beating back our gathered forces
For a moment lay us low,
We must rise again beneath it,
None the weaker for our fall.
But the waiting time, my brothers,
Is the hardest time of all.
Yet at last we learn the lesson
That God knoweth what is best,
And the silent resignation
Makes the spirit calm and blessed!
For, perchance, a day is coming
For the changes of our fate,
When our hearts will thank Him meekly
That He taught us how to wait.
(YW Journal, Dec. 1895)
Orson F. Whitney
"THE SOUL'S CAPTAIN"
[Written in response to "Invictus"]
Art thou in truth?
Then what of Him who bought thee with His blood?
Who plunged into devouring seas
And snatched thee from the flood,
Who bore for all our fallen race
What none but Him could bear—
That God who died that man might live
And endless glory share.
Of what avail thy vaunted strength
Apart from His vast might?
Pray that His light may pierce the gloom
That thou mayest see aright.
Men are as bubbles on the wave,
As leaves upon the tree,
Thou, captain of thy soul!
Forsooth, Who gave that place to thee?
Free will is thine—free agency,
To wield for right or wrong;
But thou must answer unto
Him To whom all souls belong.
Bend to the dust that "head unbowed,"
Small part of life's great whole,
And see in Him and Him alone,
The captain of thy soul.
("The Soul's Captain")