Another listless night of pain and insomnia. This time I turned from the previous night's National Geographic to a small, slim, blue soft-covered volume from the early 1920's entitled It Can Be Done: Poems of Inspiration. Collected by Joseph Morris and St. Clair Adams and originally published in November 1921, it was incredibly popular in its day for mine is the twentieth printing from August 1925. Indeed, you can still find it in print on Amazon here. You can find on the 'net here at Gutenberg and here at Archive.org.
The copy I have came from the library of a maiden great aunt of my ex-wife's, Miss Grayce M. May, whose penciled signature is inside the front cover. The circumstances of my acquiring it are a bit hazy, but as I remember it was in the effects of one of my ex-wife's relatives after their passing and I was given leave to rummage through the books before the rest were donated or discarded. I will pass this one on to my son Matt when I shuffle off this mortal coil. I have had it now for at least thirty-five years and it is one my perennial favorites that I return to every now and then.
Here are some of my favorites from within, although some of the sentiments are, perhaps, decidedly un-Easter-like.
The Quitter by Robert William Service
When you're lost in the wild and you're scared as a child,
And death looks you bang in the eye;
And you're sore as a boil, it's according to Hoyle
To cock your revolver and die.
But the code of a man says fight all you can,
And self-dissolution is barred;
In hunger and woe, oh it's easy to blow--
It's the hell served for breakfast that's hard.
You're sick of the game? Well now, that's a shame!
You're young and you're brave and you're bright.
You've had a raw deal, I know, but don't squeal.
Buck up, do your damnedest and fight!
It's the plugging away that will win you the day,
So don't be a piker, old pard;
Just draw on your grit; it's so easy to quit--
It's the keeping your chin up that's hard.
It's easy to cry that you're beaten and die,
It's easy to crawfish and crawl,
But to fight and to fight when hope's out of sight,
Why, that's the best game of them all.
And though you come out of each grueling bout,
All broken and beaten and scarred--
Just have one more try. It's dead easy to die,
It's the keeping on living that's hard.
-- Robert W. Service, From "Rhymes of a Rolling Stone."
Battle cry by John G. Neihardt.
More than half beaten, but fearless,
Facing the storm and the night;
Breathless and reeling but tearless,
Here in the lull of the fight,
I who bow not but before thee,
God of the fighting Clan,
Lifting my fists, I implore Thee,
Give me the heart of a Man!
What though I live with the winners
Or perish with those who fall?
Only the cowards are sinners,
Fighting the fight is all.
Strong is my foe--he advances!
Snapt is my blade, O Lord!
See the proud banners and lances!
Oh, spare me this stub of a sword!
Give me no pity, nor spare me;
Calm not the wrath of my Foe.
See where he beckons to dare me!
Bleeding, half beaten--I go.
Not for the glory of winning,
Not for the fear of the night;
Shunning the battle is sinning--
Oh, spare me the heart to fight!
Red is the mist about me;
Deep is the wound in my side;
"Coward" thou criest to flout me?
O terrible Foe, thou hast lied!
Here with my battle before me,
God of the fighting Clan,
Grant that the woman who bore me
Suffered to suckle a Man!
-- John G. Neihardt, From "The Quest" (collected lyrics).
He Whom A Dream Hath Possessed by Seamus O'Sheel.
He whom a dream hath possessed knoweth no more of doubting,
For mist and the blowing of winds and the mouthing of words he scorns;
Not the sinuous speech of schools he hears, but a knightly shouting,
And never comes darkness down, yet he greeteth a million morns.
He whom a dream hath possessed knoweth no more of roaming;
All roads and the flowing of waves and the speediest flight he knows,
But wherever his feet are set, his soul is forever homing,
And going, he comes, and coming he heareth a call and goes.
He whom a dream hath possessed knoweth no more of sorrow,
At death and the dropping of leaves and the fading of suns he smiles,
For a dream remembers no past and scorns the desire of a morrow,
And a dream in a sea of doom sets surely the ultimate isles.
He whom a dream hath possessed treads the impalpable marches,
From the dust of the day's long road he leaps to a laughing star,
And the ruin of worlds that fall he views from eternal arches,
And rides God's battlefield in a flashing and golden car.
-- Sheamus O Sheel, From "The Lyric Year."
Success by Berton Braley.
If you want a thing bad enough
To go out and fight for it,
Work day and night for it,
Give up your time and your peace and your sleep for it
If only desire of it
Makes you quite mad enough
Never to tire of it,
Makes you hold all other things tawdry and cheap for it
If life seems all empty and useless without it
And all that you scheme and you dream is about it,
If gladly you'll sweat for it,
Fret for it,
Plan for it,
Lose all your terror of God or man for it,
If you'll simply go after that thing that you want,
With all your capacity,
Strength and sagacity,
Faith, hope and confidence, stern pertinacity,
If neither cold poverty, famished and gaunt,
Nor sickness nor pain
Of body or brain
Can turn you away from the thing that you want,
If dogged and grim you besiege and beset it,
You'll get it!
-- Berton Braley, From "Things As They Are."
Stand Forth! by Angela Morgan.
Stand forth, my soul, and grip thy woe,
Buckle the sword and face thy foe.
What right hast thou to be afraid
When all the universe will aid?
Ten thousand rally to thy name,
Horses and chariots of flame.
Do others fear? Do others fail?
_My soul must grapple and prevail_.
My soul must scale the mountainside
And with the conquering army ride--
Stand forth, my soul!
Stand forth, my soul, and take command.
'Tis I, thy master, bid thee stand.
Claim thou thy ground and thrust thy foe,
Plead not thine enemy should go.
Let others cringe! My soul is free,
No hostile host can conquer me.
There lives no circumstance so great
Can make me yield, or doubt my fate.
My soul must know what kings have known.
Must reach and claim its rightful throne--
Stand forth, my soul!
I ask no truce, I have no qualms,
I seek no quarter and no alms.
Let those who will obey the sod,
My soul sprang from the living God.
'Tis I, the king, who bid thee stand;
Grasp with thy hand my royal hand--
-- Angela Morgan, From "The Hour Has Struck."
And finally, I think, my favorite of them all. I vividly recall Bob Wright's recitation of this poem of Grantland Rice's, entitled On Down the Road, at a militia FTX campfire back in 90s out at "Fort Stinking Desert," New Mexico. I knew it, of course, but nobody can recite it like Bob.
Hold to the course, though the storms are about you;
Stick to the road where the banner still flies;
Fate and his legions are ready to rout you--
Give 'em both barrels--and aim for their eyes.
Life's not a rose bed, a dream or a bubble,
A living in clover beneath cloudless skies;
And Fate hates a fighter who's looking for trouble,
So give 'im both barrels--and shoot for the eyes.
Fame never comes to the loafers and sitters,
Life's full of knots in a shifting disguise;
Fate only picks on the cowards and quitters,
So give 'em both barrels--and aim for the eyes.
-- Grantland Rice, From "The Sportlight."