159 Best Poems About Life

Here are the 159 best handpicked poems about life categorized:

  • Motivational poems about life
  • Funny poems about life
  • Poems about life’s struggles
  • Poems about life’s dreams
  • Poems about life’s journey
  • Sad poems about life
  • Poems about life’s lessons
  • Hopeful poems about life
  • Poems about happiness in life

If you’re looking for the best collection of life poems, this poems collection is for you.

Let’s jump right in!

159 Best Poems About Life (Categorized)

My Favorite Life Poem

White daisies in gray background.

The Instinct of Hope

Is there another world for this frail dust
To warm with life and be itself again?
Something about me daily speaks there must,
And why should instinct nourish hopes in vain?
’Tis nature’s prophesy that such will be,
And everything seems struggling to explain
The close sealed volume of its mystery.
Time wandering onward keeps its usual pace
As seeming anxious of eternity,
To meet that calm and find a resting place.
E’en the small violet feels a future power
And waits each year renewing blooms to bring,
And surely man is no inferior flower
To die unworthy of a second spring?

John Clare

Motivational Poems About Life

Beautiful and inspiring sunrise at Lake Geneva.

See It Through

When you’re up against a trouble,
Meet it squarely, face to face;
Lift your chin and set your shoulders,
Plant your feet and take a brace.
When it’s vain to try to dodge it,
Do the best that you can do;
You may fail, but you may conquer,
See it through!

Black may be the clouds about you
And your future may seem grim,
But don’t let your nerve desert you;
Keep yourself in fighting trim.
If the worst is bound to happen,
Spite of all that you can do,
Running from it will not save you,
See it through!

Even hope may seem but futile,
When with troubles you’re beset,
But remember you are facing
Just what other men have met.
You may fail, but fall still fighting;
Don’t give up, whate’er you do;
Eyes front, head high to the finish.
See it through!

Edgar Guest

Be Strong

Be strong!
We are not here to play, to dream, to drift,
We have hard work to do, and loads to lift.
Shun not the struggle; face it. ‘Tis God’s gift.

Be strong!
Say not the days are evil, — Who’s to blame?
And fold not the hands and acquiesce, — O shame!
Stand up, speak out, and bravely, in God’s name.

Be strong!
It matters not how deep entrenched the wrong,
How hard the battle goes, the day, how long.
Faint not, fight on! To-morrow comes the song.

Maltbie Davenport Babcock

If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;

If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Emily Dickinson
ray of sunshine through the tree.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

It Couldn’t Be Done

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.

Edgar Guest
Night landscape of mountains with stars covered sky and C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) comet with light tail.

A Naughty Little Comet

There was a little comet who lived near the Milky Way!
She loved to wander out at night and jump about and play.

The mother of the comet was a very good old star;
She used to scold her reckless child for venturing out too far.

She told her of the ogre, Sun, who loved on stars to sup,
And who asked no better pastime than in gobbling comets up.

But instead of growing cautious and of showing proper fear,
The foolish little comet edged up nearer, and more near.

She switched her saucy tail along right where the Sun could see,
And flirted with old Mars, and was as bold as bold could be.

She laughed to scorn the quiet stars who never frisked about;
She said there was no fun in life unless you ventured out.

She liked to make the planets stare, and wished no better mirth
Than just to see the telescopes aimed at her from the Earth.

She wondered how so many stars could mope through nights and days,
And let the sickly faced old Moon get all the love and praise.

And as she talked and tossed her head and switched her shining trail
The staid old mother star grew sad, her cheek grew wan and pale.

For she had lived there in the skies a million years or more,
And she had heard gay comets talk in just this way before.

And by and by there came an end to this gay comet’s fun.
She went a tiny bit too far-and vanished in the Sun!

No more she swings her shining trail before the whole world’s sight,
But quiet stars she laughed to scorn are twinkling every night.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox


What we call Luck
Is simply Pluck,
And doing things over and over;
Courage and will,
Perseverance and skill –
Are the four leaves of Luck’s clover.



Lovely, dark, and lonely one,
Bare your bosom to the sun,
Do not be afraid of light
You who are a child of night.

Open wide your arms to life,
Whirl in the wind of pain and strife,
Face the wall with the dark closed gate,
Beat with bare, brown fists
And wait.

Langston Hughes
Clock that shows now.

Now Is The Time

Now is the time to love, and, better still,
To serve our loved ones, over passing ill
To rise triumphant ; thus the perfect flower
Of life shall come to fruitage: wealth amass
For grandest giving ere the time be gone.
Be glad to-day, to-morrow may bring tears;
Be brave to-day, the darkest night will pass,
And golden rays will usher in the dawn:
Who conquers now shall rule the coming years.

Sarah K. Bolton


I have to live with myself, and so
I want to be for myself to know.

Always to look myself straight in the eye,
I don’t want to stand, with the setting sun
And hate myself for the things I’ve done,
I want to go out with my head erect;
I want to deserve all men’s respect;
But here in the struggle for fame and self
I want to be able to like myself.
I don’t want to look at myself and know
That I’m bluster and bluff and empty show
I never can fool myself, and so

Whatever happens I want to be
Self-respecting and conscience free.



Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

Sara Teasdale
Beautiful young woman blows dandelion in a wheat field in the summer sunset.

Hope Is The Thing With Feathers

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Emily Dickinson

A Hope Carol

A night was near, a day was near,
Between a day and night
I heard sweet voices calling clear,
Calling me:
I heard a whirr of wing on wing,
But could not see the sight;
I long to see my birds that sing,
I long to see.
Below the stars, beyond the moon,
Between the night and day
I heard a rising falling tune
Calling me:
I long to see the pipes and strings
Whereon such minstrels play;
I long to see each face that sings,
I long to see.
Today or may be not today,
Tonight or not tonight,
All voices that command or pray
Calling me,
Shall kindle in my soul such fire
And in my eyes such light
That I shall see that heart’s desire
I long to see.

Christina Georgina Rossetti


I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats its wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting—
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—
I know why the caged bird sings!

Paul Laurence Dunbar
White heart and a cup of coffee on blue wooden table.


Build a little fence of trust
Around to-day ;
Fill the space with loving deeds
And therein stay.

Look not through the sheltering bars
Upon to-morrow,
God will help thee bear what comes,
Of joy or sorrow.

Mary Frances Butts


Dream on, for dreams are sweet:
Do not awaken!
Dream on, and at thy feet
Pomegranates shall be shaken.

Who likeneth the youth
of life to morning?
’Tis like the night in truth,
Rose-coloured dreams adorning.

The wind is soft above,
The shadows umber.
(There is a dream called Love.)
Take thou the fullest slumber!

In Lethe’s soothing stream,
Thy thirst thou slakest.
Sleep, sleep; ’tis sweet to dream.
Oh, weep then thou awakest!

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Today Is The Day

Today is the day I have been looking for.
All my life has been spent in preparation for it.
Yesterday and tomorrow are faraway nothings-
The one a faint memory, the other a vague promise.

But this is my day.
It offers all that God has to give,
And I’m a laggard or a coward if I fail
To make the most of it.

January winter landscape in the forest.

In The Sunshine

Far away there in the sunshine are
My highest aspirations.
I cannot reach them,
But I can look up
And see their beauty,
Believe in them, and
Try to follow where they lead.

Louisa M. Alcott

In Summer Time

When summer time has come, and all
The world is in the magic thrall
Of perfumed airs that lull each sense
To fits of drowsy indolence;
When skies are deepest blue above,
And flow’rs aflush,—then most I love
To start, while early dews are damp,
And wend my way in woodland tramp
Where forests rustle, tree on tree,
And sing their silent songs to me;
Where pathways meet and pathways part,—
To walk with Nature heart by heart,
Till wearied out at last I lie
Where some sweet stream steals singing by
A mossy bank; where violets vie
In color with the summer sky,—
Or take my rod and line and hook,
And wander to some darkling brook,
Where all day long the willows dream,
And idly droop to kiss the stream,
And there to loll from morn till night—
Unheeding nibble, run, or bite—
Just for the joy of being there
And drinking in the summer air,
The summer sounds, and summer sights,
That set a restless mind to rights
When grief and pain and raging doubt
Of men and creeds have worn it out;
The birds’ song and the water’s drone,
The humming bee’s low monotone,
The murmur of the passing breeze,
And all the sounds akin to these,
That make a man in summer time
Feel only fit for rest and rhyme.
Joy springs all radiant in my breast;
Though pauper poor, than king more blest,
The tide beats in my soul so strong
That happiness breaks forth in song,
And rings aloud the welkin blue
With all the songs I ever knew.
O time of rapture! time of song!
How swiftly glide thy days along
Adown the current of the years,
Above the rocks of grief and tears!
‘Tis wealth enough of joy for me
In summer time to simply be.

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Now, Today

Let us do our duty, and
Pray that we may do our duty here,
Now, today:
Not in dreamy sweetness but in active energy;
Not in the green oasis of the future,
But in the dusty desert of the present;
Not in the imaginations of elsewhere,
But in the realities of now.

F. W. Farrar
Woman taking picture outdoors for memories on valley mountains.

Making Life Worthwhile

Every soul that touches yours –
Be it the slightest contact –
Get there from some good;
Some little grace; one kindly thought;
One aspiration yet unfelt;
One bit of courage
For the darkening sky;
One gleam of faith
To brave the thickening ills of life;
One glimpse of brighter skies –
To make this life worthwhile
And heaven a surer heritage.

George Eliot

Just Whistle A Bit

Just whistle a bit, if the day be dark,
And the sky be overcast:
If mute be the voice of the piping lark,
Why, pipe your own small blast.

And it’s wonderful how o’er the gray sky-track
The truant warbler comes stealing back.
But why need he come? for your soul’s at rest,
And the song in the heart,–ah, that is best.

Just whistle a bit, if the night be drear
And the stars refuse to shine:
And a gleam that mocks the starlight clear
Within you glows benign.

Till the dearth of light in the glooming skies
Is lost to the sight of your soul-lit eyes.
What matters the absence of moon or star?
The light within is the best by far.

Just whistle a bit, if there’s work to do,
With the mind or in the soil.
And your note will turn out a talisman true
To exorcise grim Toil.

It will lighten your burden and make you feel
That there’s nothing like work as a sauce for a meal.
And with song in your heart and the meal in–its place,
There’ll be joy in your bosom and light in your face.

Just whistle a bit, if your heart be sore;
‘T is a wonderful balm for pain.
Just pipe some old melody o’er and o’er
Till it soothes like summer rain.

And perhaps ‘t would be best in a later day,
When Death comes stalking down the way,
To knock at your bosom and see if you’re fit,
Then, as you wait calmly, just whistle a bit.

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Serve God In The Sunshine

Let us serve God in the sunshine,
While He makes the sun shine.
We shall then serve Him all the better
In the dark when He sends the darkness.
The darkness is sure to come.
Only let our light be God’s light,
And our darkness God’s darkness,
And we shall be safe at home
When the great nightfall comes.

Frederick William Faber
Sunlight streaming through the trees in the forest.

Life Still Has A Meaning

If there is a future there is time for mending-
Time to see your troubles coming to an ending.
Life is never hopeless however great your sorrow-
If you’re looking forward to a new tomorrow.

If there is time for wishing then there is time for hoping-
When through doubt and darkness you are blindly groping.
Though the heart be heavy and hurt you may be feeling-
If there is time for praying there is time for healing.

So if through your window there is a new day breaking-
Thank God for the promise, though mind and soul be aching,
If with harvest over there is grain enough for gleaning-
There is a new tomorrow and life still has meaning.


Little Things

Only a drop in the bucket;
But every drop will tell;
The bucket would soon be empty
Without the drops in the well.

Only a poor little penny;
It was all I had to give;
But as pennies make the dollars.
It may help some cause to live.

Only some outgrown garments –
They were all I had to spare;
But they’ll help to clothe the needy.
And the poor are everywhere.

A word now and then of comfort,
That cost me nothing to say;
But the poor old man died happy.
And it helped him on the way.

God loveth the cheerful giver,
Though the gift be poor and small:-
What doth He think of His children,
When they never give at all?


Kind Words

A little word in kindness spoken,
A motion or a tear,
Has often healed the heart that’s broken,
And made a friend sincere.

A word – a look – has crushed to earth
Full many a budding flower,
Which, had a smile but owned its birth,
Would bless life’s darkest hour.

Then deem it not an idle thing,
A pleasant word to speak;
The face you wear, the thoughts you bring,
A heart may heal or break.

Daniel Clement Colesworthy
Woman in rustic dress gathering poppy and wildflowers in sunset.

I Took My Power in My Hand

I took my Power in my Hand—
And went against the World—
‘Twas not so much as David—had—
But I—was twice as bold—

I aimed by Pebble—but Myself
Was all the one that fell—
Was it Goliath—was too large—
Or was myself—too small?

Emily Dickinson

The Length Of Life

Are your sorrows hard to bear?
Life is short!
Do you drag the chain of care?
Life is short!
Soon will come the glad release
Into rest and joy and peace;
Soon the weary thread be spun,
And the final labor done.
Keep your courage! Hold the fort!
Life is short!

Are you faint with hope delayed?
Life is long!
Tarries that for which you prayed?
Life is long!
What delights may not abide–
What ambitions satisfied–
What possessions may not be
In God’s great eternity?
Lift the heart! Be glad and strong!
Life is long!

Amos R. Wells


Sweet memory, like a pleasing dream,
Still lends a dull and feeble ray;
For ages with her vestige teems,
When beauty’s trace is worn away.

When pleasure, with her harps unstrung,
Sits silent to be heard no more,
Or leaves them on the willows hung,
And pass-time glee forever o’er;

Still back in smiles thy glory steals
With ev’ning dew drops from thine eye;
The twilight bursting from thy wheels,
Ascends and bids oblivion fly.

Memory, thy bush prevails to bloom,
Design’d to fade, no, never, never,
Will stamp thy vestige on the tomb,
And bid th’ immortal live forever.

When youth’s bright sun has once declined
And bid his smiling day expire,
Mem’ry, thy torch steals up behind,
And sets thy hidden stars on fire.

George Moses Horton
Beautiful autumn sunrise scene with trees near turquoise water of the lake.


A moment of pleasure,
An hour of pain,
A day of sunshine,
A week of rain,
A fortnight of peace,
A month of strife,
These taken together
Make up life.

One real friend
To a dozen foes,
Two open gates,
’Gainst twenty that’s closed,
Prosperity’s chair,
Then adversity’s knife;
These my friends
Make up life.

At daybreak a blossom,
At noontime a rose,
At twilight ’tis withered,
At evening ’tis closed.
The din of confusion,
The strain of the fife,
These with other things
Make up life.

A smile, then a tear,
Like a mystic pearl,
A pause, then a rush
Into the mad whirl,
A kiss, then a stab
From a traitor’s knife;
I think that you’ll agree with me,
That this life.

Carrie Law Morgan Figgs

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace.



And only where the forest fires have sped,
Scorching relentlessly the cool north lands,
A sweet wild flower lifts its purple head,
And, like some gentle spirit sorrow-fed,
It hides the scars with almost human hands.

And only to the heart that knows of grief,
Of desolating fire, of human pain,
There comes some purifying sweet belief,
Some fellow-feeling beautiful, if brief.
And life revives, and blossoms once again.

Emily Pauline Johnson
Silhouette of the sunset with soft moon.

Looking at the Moon After Rain

The heavy clouds are broken and blowing,
And once more I can see the wide common stretching beyond the four sides of the city.
Open the door. Half of the moon-toad is already up,
The glimmer of it is like smooth hoar-frost spreading over ten thousand li.
The river is a flat, shining chain.
The moon, rising, is a white eye to the hills;
After it has risen, it is the bright heart of the sea.
Because I love it—so—round as a fan,
I hum songs until the dawn.

Li Po


Being walkers with the dawn and morning
Walkers with the sun and morning,
We are not afraid of night,
Nor days of gloom,
Nor darkness,
Being walkers with the sun and morning.

Langston Hughes

Little Grey Dreams

Little grey dreams,
I sit at the ocean’s edge,
At the grey ocean’s edge,
With you in my lap.

I launch you, one by one,
And one by one,
Little grey dreams,
Under the grey, grey, clouds,
Out on the grey, grey, sea,
You go sailing away,
From my empty lap,
Little grey dreams.

Sailing! Sailing!
Into the black,
At the horizon’s edge.

Angelina Weld Grimké
Branches of viburnum tree with bright juicy red clusters of berries.

After the Winter Rain

After the winter rain,
Sing, robin! Sing, swallow!
Grasses are in the lane,
Buds and flowers will follow.

Woods shall ring, blithe and gay,
With bird-trill and twitter,
Though the skies weep to-day,
And the winds are bitter.

Though deep call unto deep
As calls the thunder,
And white the billows leap
The tempest under;

Softly the waves shall come
Up the long, bright beaches,
With dainty, flowers of foam
And tenderest speeches…

After the wintry pain,
And the long, long sorrow,
Sing, heart!—for thee again
Joy comes with the morrow.

Ina Coolbrith

An Earth Song

It’s an earth song,—
And I’ve been waiting long for an earth song.
It’s a spring song,—
And I’ve been waiting long for a spring song.
Strong as the shoots of a new plant
Strong as the bursting of new buds
Strong as the coming of the first child from its mother’s womb.
It’s an earth song,
A body song,
A spring song,
I have been waiting long for this spring song.

Langston Hughes

Funny Poems About Life

Live in this moment text on wooden signpost outdoors in landscape scenery.

A Lovely Hand

Last night I held a lovely hand,
It was so small and neat,
I thought my heart with joy would burst
So wild was every beat.

No other hand unto my heart
Could greater pleasure bring
Than the one so dear I held last night.
Four Aces and a King


Some Men

Some men were born for great things,
Some were born for small.
Some, it is not recorded
Why they were born at all.

Will Carleton

There Once Was A Man From Nantucket

There once was a man from Nantucket
Who kept all of his cash in a bucket.
But his daughter, named Nan,
Ran away with a man
And as for the bucket, Nan took it

A girl having fun in winter, enjoying the snow falling from the sky.

A Snow Man

Oh, the beautiful snow!
We’re all in a glow—
Nell, Dolly, and Willie, and Dan;
For the primest of fun,
When all’s said and done,
Is just making a big snow man.
Two stones for his eyes
Look quite owlishly wise,
A hard pinch of snow for his nose;
Then a mouth that’s as big
As the snout of a pig,
And he’ll want an old pipe, I suppose.
Then the snow man is done,
And to-morrow what fun
To make piles of snow cannon all day,
And to pelt him with balls
Till he totters and falls,
And a thaw comes and melts him away.


Why He Was There

Much as he left it when he went from us
Here was the room again where he had been
So long that something oh him should be seen,
Or felt-and so it was. Incredulous,
I turned about, loath to be greeted thus,
And there he was in his old chair, serene
As ever, and as laconic as lean
As when he lived, and as cadaverous.

Calm as he was of old when we were young,
He sat there gazing at the pallid flame
Before him. ‘And how far will this go on?’
I thought. He felt the failure of my tongue,
And smiled: ‘I was not here until you came;
And I shall not be here when you are gone.’

Edwin Arlington Robinson

How And When

We are often greatly bothered
By two fussy little men,
Who sometimes block our pathway –
Their names are How and When.
If we have a task or duty
Which we can put off a while,
And we do not go and do it –
You should see those two rogues smile!
But there is a way to beat them,
And I will tell you how:
If you have a task or duty,
Do it well, and do it now.

Rustic wooden door with old key.

Without and Within

If every man’s internal care
Were written on his brow,
How many would our pity share
Who raise our envy now?

The fatal secret, when revealed,
Of every aching breast,
Would prove that only while concealed
Their lot appeared the best.

Pietro Metastasio
(Anonymous translation from the Italian)

On Being Broke

Don’t mind being broke at all,
When I can say that what I had
Was spent for toys for kiddies small
And that the spending made ’em glad.
I don’t regret the money gone,
If happiness it left behind.
An empty purse I’ll look upon
Contented, if its record’s kind.
There’s no disgrace in being broke,
Unless it’s due to flying high;
Though poverty is not a joke,
The only thing that counts is “why?”

The dollars come to me and go;
To-day I’ve eight or ten to spend;
To-morrow I’ll be sailing low,
And have to lean upon a friend.
But if that little bunch of mine
Is richer by some toy or frill,
I’ll face the world and never whine
Because I lack a dollar bill.
I’m satisfied, if I can see
One smile that hadn’t bloomed before.
The only thing that counts with me
Is what I’ve spent my money for.

I might regret my sorry plight,
If selfishness brought it about;
If for the fun I had last night,
Some joy they’d have to go without.
But if I’ve swapped my bit of gold,
For laughter and a happier pack
Of youngsters in my little fold
I’ll never wish those dollars back.
If I have traded coin for things
They needed and have left them glad,
Then being broke no sorrow brings–
I’ve done my best with what I had.

Edgar A. Guest

Stellas Birthday

Stella this day is thirty-four,
(We shan’t dispute a year or more:)
However, Stella, be not troubled,
Although thy size and years are doubled,
Since first I saw thee at sixteen,
The brightest virgin on the green;
So little is thy form declin’d;
Made up so largely in thy mind.

Oh, would it please the gods to split
Thy beauty, size, and years, and wit;
No age could furnish out a pair
Of nymphs so graceful, wise, and fair;
With half the lustre of your eyes,
With half your wit, your years, and size.
And then, before it grew too late,
How should I beg of gentle Fate,
(That either nymph might have her swain,)
To split my worship too in twain.

Jonathan Swift
Edge of forest with leaves blown by wind

Who Has Seen the Wind?

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

Christina Rossetti

Funny — to be a Century

Funny — to be a Century —
And see the People — going by —
I — should die of the Oddity
But then — I’m not so staid — as He
He keeps His Secrets safely — very
Were He to tell — extremely sorry
This Bashful Globe of Ours would be
So dainty of Publicity

Emily Dickinson

A Very Cautious Man

There was a very cautious man
Who never laughed or played
He never risked, he never tried,
He never sang or prayed.
And when he on day passed away,
His insurance was denied,
For since he never really lived,
They claimed he never really died.

Dolomites mountain scenery with grazing sheep.


White sheep, white sheep,
On a blue hill,
When the wind stops,
You all stand still.
When the wind blows,
You walk away slow.
White sheep, white sheep,
Where do you go?


Sonnet Reversed

Hand trembling towards hand; the amazing lights
Of heart and eye. They stood on supreme heights.

Ah, the delirious weeks of honeymoon!
Soon they returned, and, after strange adventures,
Settled at Balham by the end of June.
Their money was in Can. Pacs. B. Debentures,
And in Antofagastas. Still he went
Cityward daily; still she did abide
At home. And both were really quite content
With work and social pleasures. Then they died.
They left three children (besides George, who drank):
The eldest Jane, who married Mr. Bell,
William, the head-clerk in the County Bank,
And Henry, a stock-broker, doing well.

Rupert Brooke

Poems About Life’s Struggles

Rays of sunlight shine on the busy people walking across an intersection in Midtown Manhattan.

Life is Struggle

To wear out heart, and nerves, and brain,
And give oneself a world of pain;
Be eager, angry, fierce, and hot,
Imperious, supple—God knows what,
For what’s all one to have or not;
O false, unwise, absurd, and vain!
For ’tis not joy, it is not gain,
It is not in itself a bliss,
Only it is precisely this
That keeps us all alive.
To say we truly feel the pain,
And quite are sinking with the strain;—
Entirely, simply, undeceived,
Believe, and say we ne’er believed
The object, e’en were it achieved,
A thing we e’er had cared to keep;
With heart and soul to hold it cheap,
And then to go and try it again;
O false, unwise, absurd, and vain!
O, ’tis not joy, and ’tis not bliss,
Only it is precisely this
That keeps us still alive.

Arthur Hugh Clough

Our Share of Night to Bear

Our share of night to bear,
Our share of morning,
Our blank in bliss to fill,
Our blank in scorning.

Here a star, and there a star,
Some lose their way.
Here a mist, and there a mist,
Afterwards — day!

Emily Dickinson


How should I sing when buffeting salt waves
And stung with bitter surges, in whose might
I toss, a cockleshell? The dreadful night
Marshals its undefeated dark and raves
In brutal madness, reeling over graves
Of vanquished men, long-sunken out of sight,
Sent wailing down to glut the ghoulish sprite
Who haunts foul seaweed forests and their caves.
No parting cloud reveals a watery star,
My cries are washed away upon the wind,
My cramped and blistering hands can find no spar,
My eyes with hope o’erstrained, are growing blind.
But painted on the sky great visions burn,
My voice, oblation from a shattered urn!

Amy Lowell
Pretty sad girl shedding a tear.

A Tear

O that the chemist’s magic art
Could crystallize this sacred treasure!
Long should it glitter near my heart,
A secret source of pensive pleasure.

The little brilliant, ere it fell,
Its lustre caught from Chloe’s eye;
Then, trembling, left its coral cell,—
The spring of Sensibility!

Sweet drop of pure and pearly light!
In thee the rays of Virtue shine,
More calmly clear, more mildly bright,
Than any gem that gilds the mine.

Benign restorer of the soul!
Who ever fliest to bring relief,
When first we feel the rude control
Of Love or Pity, Joy or Grief.

The sage’s and the poet’s theme,
In every clime, in every age,
Thou charm’st in Fancy’s idle dream,
In Reason’s philosophic page.

That very law which moulds a tear,
And bids it trickle from its source,—
That law preserves the earth a sphere,
And guides the planets in their course.

Samuel Rogers

Pass This Way

Through this toilsome world, alas!
Once and only once I pass;
If a kindness I may show,
If a good deed I may do

To a suffering fellow man,
Let me do it while I can.
No delay, for it is plain
I shall not pass this way again.


The World Is Against Me

“The world is against me,” he said with a sigh.
“Somebody stops every scheme that I try.

The world has me down and it’s keeping me there;
I don’t get a chance. Oh, the world is unfair!
When a fellow is poor then he can’t get a show;
The world is determined to keep him down low.”

“What of Abe Lincoln?” I asked. “Would you say
That he was much richer than you are to-day?
He hadn’t your chance of making his mark,
And his outlook was often exceedingly dark;
Yet he clung to his purpose with courage most grim
And he got to the top. Was the world against him?”

“What of Ben Franklin? I’ve oft heard it said
That many a time he went hungry to bed.
He started with nothing but courage to climb,
But patiently struggled and waited his time.
He dangled awhile from real poverty’s limb,
Yet he got to the top. Was the world against him?

“I could name you a dozen, yes, hundreds, I guess,
Of poor boys who’ve patiently climbed to success;
All boys who were down and who struggled alone,
Who’d have thought themselves rich if your fortune they’d known;
Yet they rose in the world you’re so quick to condemn,
And I’m asking you now, was the world against them?”

Edgar A. Guest
Woman resting on pier in autumn evening


Cares, Cares,—who is without them?
Troubles are plenty wherever we stray—
Pass round the glass and think nothing about them,
The more you make of them the longer they stay.
Tears, Tears,—who has not met them?
Sorrow’s the dew of life’s morning and night;
Pass round the goblet and try to forget them,
Speak of the bloom, but ne’er mention the blight.
Life—life,—who would desire it?
Who for its pleasures would suffer its pains?
Pass round the glass, for our spirits require it;
Hide with life’s roses the weight of life’s chains.

Charles Swain


I should be glad of loneliness
And hours that go on broken wings,
A thirsty body, a tired heart
And the unchanging ache of things,
If I could make a single song
As lovely and as full of light,
As hushed and brief as a falling star
On a winter night.

Sara Teasdale

My Inner Life

‘Tis true my garments threadbare are,
And sorry poor I seem;
But inly I am richer far
Than any poet’s dream.
For I’ve a hidden life no one
Can ever hope to see;
A sacred sanctuary none
May share with me.

Aloof I stand from out the strife,
Within my heart a song;
By virtue of my inner life
I to myself belong.
Against man-ruling I rebel,
Yet do not fear defeat,
For to my secret citadel
I may retreat.

Oh you who have an inner life
Beyond this dismal day
With wars and evil rumours rife,
Go blessedly your way.
Your refuge hold inviolate;
Unto yourself be true,
And shield serene from sordid fate
The Real You.

Robert William Service
Key with a label that has the word life written on it.


What is our life? A play of passion,
Our mirth the music of division,
Our mother’s wombs the tiring-houses be,
Where we are dressed for this short comedy.
Heaven the judicious sharp spectator is,
That sits and marks still who doth act amiss.

Our graves that hide us from the setting sun
Are like drawn curtains when the play is done.
Thus march we, playing, to our latest rest,
Only we die in earnest, that’s no jest.

Sir Walter Raleigh

My Wage

I bargained with Life for a penny,
And Life would pay no more,
However I begged at evening
When I counted my scanty store;
For Life is a just employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why, you must bear the task.
I worked for a menial’s hire,
Only to learn, dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have paid.

Jessie Belle Rittenhouse


A hollow on the verge of May.
Thick strewn with drift of leaves. Beneath
The densest drift a thrusting sheath
Of sharp green striving toward the day!
I mused—”So dull Obstruction sets
A bar to even violets,
When these would go their nobler way!”
My feet again, some days gone by.
The self-same spot sought idly. There,
Obstruction foiled, the adoring air
Caressed a blossom woven of sky
And dew, whose misty petals blue,
With bliss of being thrilled athrough,
Dilated like a timorous eye.
Reck well this rede, my soul! The good
The blossom craved was near, tho’ hid.
Fret not that thou must doubt, but rid
Thy sky-path of obstructions strewed
By winds of folly. Then, do thou
The Godward impulse room allow
To reach its perfect air and food!

Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts
Dew raindrops hang on coniferous bush branches.

The Rainy Day

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall.
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast.
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall.
Some days must be dark and dreary.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Not They Who Soar

Not they who soar, but they who plod
Their rugged way, unhelped, to God
Are heroes; they who higher fare,
And, flying, fan the upper air,
Miss all the toil that hugs the sod.
‘Tis they whose backs have felt the rod,
Whose feet have pressed the path unshod,
May smile upon defeated care,
Not they who soar.

High up there are no thorns to prod,
Nor boulders lurking ‘neath the clod
To turn the keenness of the share,
For flight is ever free and rare;
But heroes they the soil who’ve trod,
Not they who soar!

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Minstrel Man

Because my mouth
Is wide with laughter
And my throat
Is deep with song,
You do not think
I suffer after
I have held my pain
So long.

Because my mouth
Is wide with laughter,
You do not hear
My inner cry,
Because my feet
Are gay with dancing,
You do not know
I die.

Langston Hughes
Melancholic woman looking at the sunset over the sea mountain landscape.

A Picture

I drew a picture long ago—
A picture of a sullen sea;
A picture that I value now
Because it clears Life’s mystery.

My sea was dark and full of gloom;
I painted rocks of sombre hue.
My sky alone bespoke of light,
And that I painted palest blue.

But e’en across my sky of blue
Stretched troubled clouds of sodden gray,
Through which the sun shone weak and dim,
With only here and there a ray.

Around my rocks the yellow foam
Seemed surging, moaning in despair
As if the waves, their fury spent,
Left naught but desolation there.

Three crafts with fluttering sails I drew,
And one sailed near the rocks of gray,
The other on its westward course,
Went speeding out of danger’s way.

The other still outdistanced them
Where sky and water seemed to met.
I painted that with sails full set,
And then my picture was complete.

My life was like the sullen sea,
Misfortunes, woes, my rocks of gray,
The crafts portrayed Life’s changing scenes,
The clouded sky Life’s troubled Day.

I longed to paint that picture o’er
Without the rocks of sombre hue;
Without the troubled clouds of gray,
I’ll paint the sky of brightest blue.

My sea shall lay in calm repose,
No hint of surging, moaning sigh.
My crafts, unhindered by the rocks,
Shall speed in joyous swiftness by.

But this shall be when brightest hours
Of hope and cheer are given me.
I’ll paint this picture when Life’s sun
Shines clear upon Prosperity

Olivia Ward Bush-Banks

On Being Brought from Africa to America

‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic die.”
Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.

Phillis Wheatley

Holy Sonnet 14

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

John Donne
A white cup and old books on a rustic wooden wet window

Calling Dreams

The right to make my dreams come true,
I ask, nay, I demand of life,
Nor shall fate’s deadly contraband
Impede my steps, nor countermand;
Too long my heart against the ground
Has beat the dusty years around,
And now at length I rise! I wake!
And stride into the morning break!

Georgia Douglas Johnson

Ode to the Sun

How many scenes, O sun,
Hast thou not shone upon!
How many tears, O light,
Have dropped before thy sight!
How many heart-felt sighs,
How many piercing cries,
How many deeds of woe,
Dost thy bright light not know!
How many broken hearts,
That are pierced by sorrow’s darts
How many maddened brains,
That are wild with passion’s rains;
How many soul-sick lives,
Stabbed with despair’s sharp knives,
Hast thou above the skies,
Not seen with thy radiant eyes!
Shine on, majestic one!
Shine on, O glorious sun!
And never fail to cheer
My life so dark and drear.
Whene’er thou shinest bright,
And show thy brilliant light,
The cares I know each day
Silently steal away.

Eloise Bibb Thompson

Poems About Life’s Dreams

  A little girl practices ballet at home with her dad.

It’s a Long Way

It’s a long way the sea-winds blow
Over the sea-plains blue,—
But longer far has my heart to go
Before its dreams come true.

It’s work we must, and love we must,
And do the best we may,
And take the hope of dreams in trust
To keep us day by day.

It’s a long way the sea-winds blow—
But somewhere lies a shore—
Thus down the tide of Time shall flow
My dreams forevermore.

William Stanley Braithwaite

Doors of Daring

The mountains that enfold the vale
With walls of granite, steep and high,
Invite the fearless foot to scale
Their stairway toward the sky.

The restless, deep, dividing sea
That flows and foams from shore to shore,
Calls to its sunburned chivalry,
“Push out, set sail, explore!”

And all the bars at which we fret,
That seem to prison and control,
Are but the doors of daring, set
Ajar before the soul.

Say not, “Too poor,” but freely give;
Sigh not, “Too weak,” but boldly try,
You never can begin to live
Until you dare to die.

Henry Van Dyke

Life In A Dream

There is nothing so sweet as our life in our dreams,
When we soar far on fancy’s swift wing;
For a thing in our dreams is all that it seems,
And the songs are so sweet that we sing.
Ah! the sun shines the brightest, and stars twinkle lightest
At the moon in her silvery beams!

There is nothing so gay as the life in our dreams,
With its joy and its laughter and mirth;
For the pleasure that teems is far greater, one deems,
Than any he finds in the earth.
There are homes are our natal, and nothing is fatal
In the beautiful land of our dreams!

There is nothing so bright as the life in our dreams,
Far away from earth’s trickery chance;
There the music’s wild screams and the wine in its streams
Are both lost in the song and the dance.
Oh! our joy is the sweetest and life is completest,
Ah! the life in our beautiful dreams!

There is nothing serene as the life in our dreams,
When the dove to his mate softly cooes
In the groves by the streams and the moon’s silver beams,
Where the swain oft his maid gently wooes.
There the swains are the rarest and maids are the fairest,
And their love is as true as it seems!

Edward Smyth Jones


He who bends to himself a joy
Does the wingèd life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.

If you trap the moment before it is ripe,
The tears of repentance you ’ll certainly wipe;
But if once you let the ripe moment go,
You can never wipe off the tears of woe.

William Blake
Young sculptor artist creating a bust sculpture.

Life Sculpture

Chisel in hand stood a sculptor boy
With his marble block before him,
And his eyes lit up with a smile of joy,
As an angel-dream passed o’er him.
He carved the dream on that shapeless stone,
With many a sharp incision;
With heaven’s own flight the sculpture shone,—
He’d caught that angel-vision.
Children of life are we, as we stand
With our lives uncarved before us,
Waiting the hour when, at God’s command,
Our life-dream shall pass o’er us.
If we carve it then on the yielding stone,
With many a sharp incision,
Its heavenly beauty shall be our own,—
Our lives, that angel-vision.

George Washington Doane

The Dreamer

Temples he built and palaces of air,
And, with the artist’s parent-pride aglow,
His fancy saw his vague ideals grow
Into creations marvellously fair;

He set his foot upon Fame’s nether stair.
But ah, his dream,—it had entranced him so
He could not move. He could no farther go;
But paused in joy that he was even there!

He did not wake until one day there gleamed
Thro’ his dark consciousness a light that racked
His being till he rose, alert to act.
But lo! what he had dreamed, the while he dreamed,
Another, wedding action unto thought,
Into the living, pulsing world had brought.

Paul Laurence Dunbar

The Ambitious Kangaroo

They held a great meeting a king to select.
And the kangaroo rose in a dignified way.
And said, “I’m the one you should surely elect,
For I can out-leap every beast here today.”
Said the eagle, “How high can you climb toward the sky?”
Said the nightingale, “Favor us, please, with a song.”
Said the hawk, “Let us measure our powers of eye!”
Said the lion, “Come, wrestle and prove you are strong!”
But the kangaroo sald, “It would surely be best,
In our choice of a king, to make leaping the test!”

Amos Russel Wells
Opportunity's doorway, field of sunflowers beyond the door.


Master of human destinies am I.
Fame, love, and fortune on my footsteps wait.
Cities and fields I walk; I penetrate
Deserts and seas remote, and passing by
Hovel, and mart, and palace—soon or late
I knock unbidden once at every gate!

If sleeping, wake—if feasting, rise before
I turn away. It is the hour of fate,
And they who follow me reach every state
Mortals desire, and conquer every foe
Save death; but those who doubt or hesitate,
Condemned to failure, penury, and woe,
Seek me in vain and uselessly implore—
I answer not, and I return no more.

John James Ingalls


Go forth, my son,
Winged by my heart’s desire!
Great reaches, yet unknown,
For your possession.
I may not, if I would,
Retrace the way with you,
My pilgrimage is through,
But life is calling you!
Fare high and far, my son,
A new day has begun,
Thy star-ways must be won!

Georgia Douglas Johnson

The Starry Midnight Whispers

The starry midnight whispers,
As I muse before the fire
On the ashes of ambition
And the embers of desire,
“Life has no other logic,
And time no other creed,
Than: ‘I for joy will follow.
Where thou for love dost lead!”

Bliss Carman
Wooden steps going up through a green forest in Marin County, San Francisco.

I Will Be Worthy of It

I may not reach the heights I seek,
My untried strength may fail me;
Or, half-way up the mountain peak,
Fierce tempests may assail me.
But though that place I never gain,
Herein lies comfort for my pain—
I will be worthy of it.
I may not triumph in success,
Despite my earnest labor;
I may not grasp results that bless
The efforts of my neighbor;
But though my goal I never see
This thought shall always dwell with me—
I will be worthy of it.
The golden glory of Love’s light
May never fall on my way;
My path may always lead through night,
Like some deserted by-way;
But though life’s dearest joy I miss
There lies a nameless strength in this—
I will be worthy of it.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Undeveloped Lives

Not every thought can find its words,
Not all within is known;
For minds and hearts have many chords
That never yield their tone.

Tastes, instincts, feelings, passions, powers,
Sleep there, unfelt, unseen;
And other lives lie hid in ours—
The lives that might have been;

Affections whose transforming force
Could mould the heart anew;
Strong motives that might change the course
Of all we think and do.

Upon the tall cliff’s cloud-wrapt verge
The lonely shepherd stands,
And hears the thundering ocean surge
That sweeps the far-off strands;

And thinks in peace of raging storms
Where he will never be—
Of life in all its unknown forms
In lands beyond the sea.

So in our dreams some glimpse appears,
Though soon it fades again,
How other lands or times or spheres
Might make us other men;

How half our being lies in trance,
Nor joy nor sorrow brings,
Unless the hand of circumstance
Can touch the latent strings.

We know not fully what we are,
Still less what we might be;
But hear faint voices from the far
Dim lands beyond the sea.

William Edward Hartpole Lecky


We have not wings, we cannot soar;
But we have feet to scale and climb
By slow degrees, by more and more,
The cloudy summits of our time.

The mighty pyramids of stone
That wedge-like cleave the desert airs,
When nearer seen and better known,
Are but gigantic flights of stairs.

The distant mountains, that uprear
Their solid bastions of the skies,
Are crossed by pathways that appear
As we to higher levels rise.

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.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Silhouette of a free and hopeful woman with balloons in the sunrise.

The Aim

O thou who lovest not alone
The swift success, the instant goal,
But hast a lenient eye to mark
The failures of th’ inconstant soul,
Consider not my little worth,—
The mean achievement, scamped in act,
The high resolve and low result,
The dream that durst not face the fact.
But count the reach of my desire.
Let this be something in Thy sight:—
I have not, in the slothful dark,
Forgot the Vision and the Height.
Neither my body nor my soul
To earth’s low ease will yield consent.
I praise Thee for my will to strive.
I bless Thy goad of discontent.

Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts


The toughest wood with brightest blaze will greet:
The hardest nut contains the sweetest meat;
So wisdom, gained by light of midnight oil,
Gives richest recompense to patient toil.

Charles Eugene Banks


We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise;
And then, if we are true to plan,
Our statures touch the skies.
The heroism we recite
Would be a daily thing,
Did not ourselves the cubits warp
For fear to be a king.

Emily Dickinson
Waves and strong wind


Wild seas of tossing, writhing waves,
A wreck half-sinking in the tortuous gloom;
One man clings desperately, while Boreas raves,
And helps to blot the rays of moon and star,
Then comes a sudden flash of light, which gleams on shores afar.

Alice Dunbar-Nelson

Dream and the Song

So oft our hearts, belovèd lute,
In blossomy haunts of song are mute;
So long we pore, ’mid murmurings dull,
O’er loveliness unutterable.
So vain is all our passion strong!
The dream is lovelier than the song.

The rose thought, touched by words, doth turn
Wan ashes. Still, from memory’s urn,
The lingering blossoms tenderly
Refute our wilding minstrelsy.
Alas! We work but beauty’s wrong!
The dream is lovelier than the song.

Yearned Shelley o’er the golden flame?
Left Keats for beauty’s lure, a name
But “writ in water”? Woe is me!
To grieve o’er flowerful faëry.
My Phasian doves are flown so long—
The dream is lovelier than the song!

Ah, though we build a bower of dawn,
The golden-wingèd bird is gone,
And morn may gild, through shimmering leaves,
Only the swallow-twittering eaves.
What art may house or gold prolong
A dream far lovelier than a song?

The lilting witchery, the unrest
Of wingèd dreams, is in our breast;
But ever dear Fulfilment’s eyes
Gaze otherward. The long-sought prize,
My lute, must to the gods belong.
The dream is lovelier than the song.

James D. Corrothers

Poems About Life’s Journey

Subway train in New York at sunset.

Life Is Too Short

Life is too short for any vain regretting;
Let dead delight bury its dead, I say,
And let us go upon our way forgetting
The joys, and sorrows, of each yesterday.
Between the swift sun’s rising and its setting,
We have no time for useless tears or fretting,
“Life is too short”.

Life is too short for any bitter feeling;
Time is the best avenger if we wait,
The years speed by, and on their wings bear healing,
We have no room for anything like hate.
This solemn truth the low mounds seem revealing
That thick and fast about our feet are stealing,
“Life is too short”.

Life is too short for aught but high endeavour,—
Too short for spite, but long enough for love.
And love lives on for ever and for ever,
It links the worlds that circle on above;
‘Tis God’s first law, the universe’s lever,
In His vast realm the radiant souls sigh never
“Life is too short.”

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

For Each Ecstatic Instant

For each ecstatic instant
We must an anguish pay
In keen and quivering ratio
To the ecstasy.

For each beloved hour
Sharp pittances of years,
Bitter contested farthings
And coffers heaped with tears.

Emily Dickinson

Life And I

Life and I are lovers, straying
Arm in arm along:
Often like two children Maying,
Full of mirth and song,

Life plucks all the blooming hours
Growing by the way;
Binds them on my brow like flowers,
Calls me Queen of May.

Then again, in rainy weather,
We sit vis-a-vis,
Planning work we’ll do together
In the years to be.

Sometimes Life denies me blisses,
And I frown or pout;
But we make it up with kisses
Ere the day is out.

Woman-like, I sometimes grieve him,
Try his trust and faith,
Saying I shall one day leave him
For his rival, Death.

Then he always grows more zealous,
Tender, and more true;
Loves the more for being jealous,
As all lovers do.

Though I swear by stars above him,
And by worlds beyond,
That I love him – love him – love him;
Though my heart is fond;

Though he gives me, doth my lover,
Kisses with each breath –
I shall one day throw him over,
And plight troth with Death.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Young woman with cup of coffee stay near wood in sunset time.


We have to-morrow
Bright before us
Like a flame

Yesterday, a night-gone thing
A sun-down name

And dawn to-day
Broad arch above the road we came,
We march.

Langston Hughes


Come, lovers, come, forget your pains!
I know upon this earth a spot
Where clinking coins, that clank as chains
Upon the souls of men, are not;
Nor man is measured for his gains
Of gold that stream with crimson stains.

There snow-topped towers crush the clouds,
And break the still abode of stars,
Like sudden ghosts in snowy shrouds,
New broken through their earthly bars,
And condors whet their crooked beaks
On lofty limits of the peaks.

O men that fret as frets the main!
You irk me with your eager gaze
Down in the earth for fat increase—
Eternal talks of gold and gain,
Your shallow wit, your shallow ways,
And breaks my soul across the shoal
As breakers break on shallow seas.

Joaquin Miller

The Best That You Can

Did you meet that trouble that came your way
With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful;
For a trouble’s a ton, or a trouble’s an ounce,
It isn’t the fact that you’re hurt that counts,
But only, how did you take it?

Young woman holds hands in heart shape near face looking cheerful.

The Light Of A Cheerful Heart

I tell you that you and I and the commonest
person are all journeying the same way,
hemmed in by the same narrow path,
leading to the eternal years.

We pride ourselves over our particular superiority;
but really there is little difference between us;

And in this journey over the thousand hills and
valleys called life, he is wisest who is
patient where the way is hard, has faith when
he does not understand, and carries into the
dark places the light of a cheerful heart.

Max Ehrmann

Silver And Gold

Get of this life I shall never take
Things of silver and gold I make.

All that I cherish and hoard away,
After I leave, on earth must stay.

All that I gather and all that I keep,
I must leave behind when I fall asleep.

And I often wonder what I shall own
In the other life when I pass along.

What shall they find and what shall they see
In the soul that answers the call for me?

Shall the Great Judge learn, when my task is through,
That my spirit has gathered some riches, too?

Or shall at the last it be mine to find
That all I’d worked for I’d left behind?


‘Tis So Much Joy

’T is so much joy! ’T is so much joy!
If I should fail, what poverty!
And yet, as poor as I
Have ventured all upon a throw;
Have gained! Yes! Hesitated so
This side the victory!

Life is but life, and death but death!
Bliss is but bliss, and breath but breath!
And if, indeed, I fail,
At least to know the worst is sweet.
Defeat means nothing but defeat,
No drearier can prevail!

And if I gain,—oh, gun at sea,
Oh, bells that in the steeples be,
At first repeat it slow!
For heaven is a different thing
Conjectured, and waked sudden in,
And might o’erwhelm me so!

Emily Dickinson
Close-up woman's cupped hands holding a red heart.


We must not hope to be mowers,
And to gather the ripe gold ears,
Unless we have first been sowers
And watered the furrows with tears.
It is not just as we take it,
This mystical world of ours,
Life’s field will yield as we make it
A harvest of thorns or of flowers.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


O Hope! into my darkened life
Thou hast so oft’ descended;
My helpless head from failure’s blows,
Thou also hast defended;
When circumstances hard, and mean,
Which I could not control,
Did make me bow my head with shame,
Thou comforted my soul.

When stumbling blocks lay all around,
And when my steps did falter,
Then did thy sacred fires burn
Upon my soul’s high altar.
Oft’ was my very blackest night
Scarce darker than my day,
But thou dispelled those clouds of doubt,
And cheered my lonely way.

E’en when I saw my friends forsake,
And leave me for another,
Then thou, O Hope, didst cling to me
Still closer than a brother;
Thus with thee near I groped my way
Through that long, gloomy night
Till now; yes, as I speak, behold,
I see the light! the light!

Theodore Henry Shackelford

The Journey

You got to have some trouble In this rough old world of ours,
You got to fight the bumblebee, sometimes to pick the flowers;
Your going find fin’ a heap of roughness in the rocky road,
Before you get what you can rest and lay aside the load.
But be humble, and don’t grumble,
Because you sometimes slip and stumble,
And seems to drop behind the rest of all the hustlin’ throng.
Don’t stop an’ start a-whining
And a-whimpering and a pinning,
But pick your feet up, honey, and go traveling along.

You may have fears of troubles that will hit you hard someday,
But they’re bound to catch you if you halt along the way.
You got to keep a moving. Some are fast and some are slow.
But all that’s looked for from you is to do the best you know.
So don’t you wait and worry,
If you fall down in your hurry,
And never mind the chaffing
And the hollering and the laughing,
Just pull yourself together as you hum a little song,
But pick your feet up, honey, and go travelling along.

Red roses blooming in sunlight.

Roses and Sunshine

Rough is the road I am journeying now,
Heavy the burden I’m bearing to-day;
But I’m humming a song, as I wander along,
And I smile at the roses that nod by the way.
Red roses sweet,
Blooming there at my feet,
Just dripping with honey and perfume and cheer;
What a weakling I’d be
If I tried not to see
The joy and the comfort you bring to us here.

Just tramping along o’er the highway of life,
Knowing not what’s ahead but still doing my best;
And I sing as I go, for my soul seems to know
In the end I shall come to the valley of rest.
With the sun in my face
And the roses to grace
The roads that I travel, what have I to fear?
What a coward I’d be
If I tried not to see
The roses of hope and the sunshine of cheer.

Edgar A. Guest

I had No Time To Hate, Because

I had no time to hate, because
The grave would hinder me,
And life was not so ample I
Could finish enmity.

Nor had I time to love, but since
Some industry must be,
The little toil of love, I thought,
Was large enough for me.

Emily Dickinson

Life is Fine

I went down to the river,
I set down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn’t,
So I jumped in and sank.

I came up once and hollered!
I came up twice and cried!
If that water hadn’t a-been so cold
I might’ve sunk and died.

But it was Cold in that water! It was cold!

I took the elevator
Sixteen floors above the ground.
I thought about my baby
And thought I would jump down.

I stood there and I hollered!
I stood there and I cried!
If it hadn’t a-been so high
I might’ve jumped and died.

But it was High up there! It was high!

So since I’m still here livin’,
I guess I will live on.
I could’ve died for love—
But for livin’ I was born

Though you may hear me holler,
And you may see me cry—
I’ll be dogged, sweet baby,
If you gonna see me die.

Life is fine! Fine as wine! Life is fine!

Langston Hughes

A Song of Hope

Day is at the gate,
I am risen late;
Clouds laze in the air,
Clouds sleep on the grass;
I have song to spare
Till the shadows pass.

Day is at the noon,
No thread of bow or moon;
Rain is in the air,
Drenched and limp the grass;
I have song to spare
Till the shadows pass.

Day is at the close,
Faith no logic knows;
Rain-clouds blur the air,
All the world is dun;
I have song to spare
Till to-morrow’s sun.

Charles Bertram Johnson

Sad Poems About Life

Lonely woman sitting on a swing, watching the sunset alone.

Life Is Bitter

Life is bitter. All the faces of the years,
Young and old, are grey with travail and with tears.
Must we only wake to toil, to tire, to weep?
In the sun, among the leaves, upon the flowers,
Slumber stills to dreamy death the heavy hours . . .
Let me sleep.

Riches won but mock the old, unable years;
Fame’s a pearl that hides beneath a sea of tears;
Love must wither, or must live alone and weep.
In the sunshine, through the leaves, across the flowers,
While we slumber, death approaches though the hours! . . .
Let me sleep.

William Ernest Henley

It Was Not Death, For I Stood Up

It was not Death, for I stood up,
And all the Dead, lie down—
It was not Night, for all the Bells
Put out their Tongues, for Noon.

It was not Frost, for on my Flesh

I felt Siroccos—crawl—
Nor Fire—for just my Marble feet
Could keep a Chancel, cool—
And yet, it tasted, like them all,
The Figures I have seen
Set orderly, for Burial,
Reminded me, of mine—

As if my life were shaven,
And fitted to a frame,
And could not breathe without a key,
And ’twas like Midnight, some –

When everything that ticked—has stopped—
And Space stares—all around—
Or Grisly frosts—first Autumn morns,
Repeal the Beating Ground—

But, most, like Chaos—Stopless—cool—
Without a Chance, or Spar—
Or even a Report of Land—
To justify—Despair.

Emily Dickinson

Life’s Tragedy

It may be misery not to sing at all
And to go silent through the brimming day.
It may be sorrow never to be loved,
But deeper griefs than these beset the way.

To have come near to sing the perfect song
And only by a half–tone lost the key,
There is the potent sorrow, there the grief,
The pale, sad staring of life’s tragedy.

To have just missed the perfect love,
Not the hot passion of untempered youth,
But that which lays aside its vanity
And gives thee, for thy trusting worship, truth—

This, this it is to be accursed indeed;
For if we mortals love, or if we sing,
We count our joys not by the things we have,
But by what kept us from the perfect thing.

Paul Laurence Dunbar
Sad girl thinking outdoors.

The Saddest Thought

Sad is the wane of beauty to the fair,
Sad is the flux of fortune to the proud,
Sad is the look dejected lovers wear,
And sad is worth beneath detraction’s cloud.
Sad is our youth’s inexorable end,
Sad is the bankruptcy of fancy’s wealth,
Sad is the last departure of a friend,
And sadder than most things is loss of health.

And yet more sad than these to think upon
Is this – the saddest thought beneath the sun –
Life, flowing like a river, almost gone
Into eternity, and nothing done.
Let me be spared that bootless last regret:
Let me work now; I may do something yet.

W. M. MacKeracher


My life is like the summer rose,
That opens to the morning sky,
But, ere the shades of evening close,
Is scattered on the ground—to die!
Yet on the rose’s humble bed
The sweetest dews of night are shed,
As if she wept the waste to see,—
But none shall weep a tear for me!

My life is like the autumn leaf
That trembles in the moon’s pale ray;
Its hold is frail,—its date is brief,
Restless, and soon to pass away!
Yet, ere that leaf shall fall and fade,
The parent tree will mourn its shade,
The winds bewail the leafless tree,—
But none shall breathe a sigh for me!

My life is like the prints which feet
Have left on Tampa’s desert strand;
Soon as the rising tide shall beat,
All trace will vanish from the sand;
Yet, as if grieving to efface
All vestige of the human race,
On that lone shore loud moans the sea,—
But none, alas! shall mourn for me!

Richard Henry Wilde

Miles To Go Before I Sleep

Whose woods these are I think I Know.
His house is in the village, though
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost
Peaceful woman standing near lake at sundown.


From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still—
From the torrent, or the fountain—
From the red cliff of the mountain—
From the sun that ‘round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by—
From the thunder, and the storm—
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view—

Edgar Allan Poe


The list is long, the stories read the same;
Strong mortal man is but a flesh-hued toy;
Some have their ending in a life of shame;
Others drink deeply from the glass of joy;
Some see the cup dashed dripping from their lip
Or drinking, find the wine has turned to gall,
While others taste the sweets they fain would sip
And then Death comes–the sequel to it all.

Edwin C. Ranck

Where Lies the Land?

Where lies the land to which the ship would go?
Far, far ahead, is all her seamen know.
And where the land she travels from? Away,
Far, far behind, is all that they can say.

On sunny noons upon the deck’s smooth face,
Linked arm in arm, how pleasant here to pace!
Or o’er the stern reclining, watch below
The foaming wake far widening as we go.

On stormy nights, when wild northwesters rave,
How proud a thing to fight with wind and wave!
The dripping sailor on the reeling mast
Exults to bear, and scorns to wish it past.

Where lies the land to which the ship would go?
Far, far ahead, is all her seamen know.
And where the land she travels from? Away,
Far, far behind, is all that they can say.

Arthur Hugh Clough
Surreal painting of a man standing alone at the seashore, his reflection in the water.

Because I Liked You Better

Because I liked you better
Than suits a man to say,
It irked you, and I promised
To throw the thought away.

To put the world between us
We parted, stiff and dry;
‘Good-bye,’ said you, ‘forget me.’
‘I will, no fear’, said I …

A. E. Housman


I made a posie, while the day ran by:
“Here will I smell my remnant out, and tie
My life within this band.”
But Time did beckon to the flowers, and they
By noon most cunningly did steal away,
And withered in my hand.

My hand was next to them, and then my heart;
I took, without more thinking, in good part
Time’s gentle admonition;
Who did so sweetly death’s sad taste convey,
Making my minde to smell my fatall day,
Yet sug’ring the suspicion.

Farewell, dear flowers! sweetly your time ye spent;
Fit, while ye lived, for smell or ornament,
And after death for cures.
I follow straight without complaints or grief;
Since, if my scent be good, I care not if
It be as short as yours.

George Herbert


Why do we grudge our sweets so to the living,
Who, God knows, find at best too much of gall,
And then with generous, open hands kneel, giving
Unto the dead our all?

Why do we pierce the warm hearts, sin or sorrow,
With idle jests, or scorn, or cruel sneers,
And when it cannot know, on some tomorrow,
Speak of its woe through tears?

What do the dead care, for the tender token—
The love, the praise, the floral offerings?
But palpitating, living hearts are broken
For want of just these things.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Old wooden jetty at a lake at sunset.

When You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

William Butler Yeats

The Rose-Bush

A child sleeps under a rose-bush fair,
The buds swell out in the soft May air;
Sweetly it rests, and on dream-wings flies
To play with the angels in Paradise.
And the years glide by.

A Maiden stands by the rose-bush fair,
The dewy blossoms perfume the air;
She presses her hand to her throbbing breast,
With love’s first wonderful rapture blest.
And the years glide by.

A Mother kneels by the rose-bush fair,
Soft sigh the leaves in the evening air;
Sorrowing thoughts of the past arise,
And tears of anguish bedim her eyes.
And the years glide by.

Naked and lone stands the rose-bush fair,
Whirled are the leaves in the autumn air,
Withered and dead they fall to the ground,
And silently cover a new-made mound.
And the years glide by.

Johann Ludwig Uhland
(From the German by William Warren Caldwell)

Poems About Life’s Lessons

Young woman biking on the beach, arms outstretched.

There’s No Time Like The Present

There’s no time like the present;
To-morrow’s far away;
And what our hands may find to do,
God bids us do to-day.

Be ready in the golden
Now To do a helpful deed;
And never let the chance go by
To meet a sister’s need.

Don’t wait until another time,
For she who waits may lose
The grandest chance of all her life;
It is not ours to choose.

The opportunities to do,
They come at God’s behest,
And sue who never squanders one
Is she who lives the best.


The Way to Be Happy

How pleasant it is at the end of the day,
No follies to have to repent,
But reflect on the past and be able to say,
My time has been properly spent!
When I’ve done all my business with patience and care,
And been good, and obliging, and kind,
I lie on my pillow and sleep away there,
With a happy and peaceable mind.
Instead of all this, if it must be confest,
That I careless and idle have been,
I lie down as usual, and go to my rest,
But feel discontented within.
Then as I dislike all the trouble I’ve had,
In future I’ll try to prevent it,
For I never am naughty without being sad,
Or good—without being contented.

Jane Taylor


O hour of all hours, the most blest upon earth,
Blest hour of our dinners!
The land of his birth;
The face of his first love; the bills that he owes;
The twaddle of friends, and venom of foes;
The sermon he heard when to church he last went;
The money he borrowed, the money he spent;
All of these things a man, I believe, may forget,
And not be the worse for forgetting; but yet
Never, never, oh, never! earth’s luckiest sinner
Hath unpunished forgotten the hour of his dinner!
Indigestion, that conscience of every bad stomach,
Shall relentlessly gnaw and pursue him with some ache
Or some pain; and trouble, remorseless, his best ease,
As the Furies once troubled the sleep of Orestes.

We may live without poetry, music, and art;
We may live without conscience, and live without earth;
We may live without friends; we may live without books;
But civilized men cannot live without cooks.
He may live without books,—what is knowledge but grieving?
He may live without hope,—what is hope but deceiving?
He may live without love,—what is passion but pining?
But where is the man that can live without dining?

E. Robert Bulwer, Lord Lytton (Owen Meredith)
Man mountaineer walking alone with footprint on snowy mountain.

No Man is an Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

John Donne


Two things are yours that no man’s wealth can buy:
The air, and time;
And, having these, all fate you may defy,
All summits climb.
While you can draw the fresh and vital breath,
And own the day,
No enemy, not Hate, nor Fear, nor Death,
May bring dismay.
Breathe deeply! Use the minutes as they fly!
Trust God in all!
Thus will you live the life that cannot die,
Nor ever fall.

Amos R. Wells


Life is a jest;
Take the delight of it.
Laughter is best;
Sing through the night of it.
Swiftly the tear
And the hurt and the ache of it
Find us down here;
Life must be what we make of it.
Life is a song;
Let us dance to the thrill of it.
Grief’s hours are long,
And cold is the chill of it.
Joy is man’s need;
Let us smile for the sake of it.
This be our creed:
Life must be what we make of it.
Life is a soul;
The virtue and vice of it.
Strife for a goal,
And man’s strength is the price of it.
Your life and mine,
The bare bread and the cake of it,
End in this line:
Life must be what we make of it.

Edgar A. Guest
Young woman with her horse in evening sunset light

Swift Kindnesses

“Swift kindnesses are best,” I love this phrase.
It argues healthy zest; enthusiastic ways.
It wells up from the heart, not from the cautious mind.
“To-day,” it cries, “we’ll start to be exceeding kind.”

“Swift kindnesses are best,” Oh charming phrase,
expressing love’s behest – be swift to praise.
It is a splendid race when word and deed
strive for first place, responsive to grief’s need.

Proverbs, like fashions, alter; but not this one.
Delay not, never falter when kindness should be done.
For happy Christmas tide, no need to wait.
A burdened heart has sighed? Then be not late.

“Swift kindnesses are best.” Brook no delay.
Compassion in the heart has right of way.
So practise not restraint; to prudence do not bow;
the weary one and faint needs your swift kindness now.

Wilhelmina Stitch

The Epicure

Fill the bowl with rosy wine!
Around our temples roses twine!
And let us cheerfully awhile,
Like the wine and roses, smile.
Crowned with roses, we contemn
Gyges’ wealthy diadem.
To-day is ours, what do we fear?
To-day is ours; we have it here:
Let ’s treat it kindly, that it may
Wish, at least, with us to stay.
Let ’s banish business, banish sorrow;
To the gods belongs to-morrow.

Underneath this myrtle shade,
On flowery beds supinely laid,
With odorous oils my head o’erflowing,
And around it roses growing,
What should I do but drink away
The heat and troubles of the day?
In this more than kingly state
Love himself shall on me wait.
Fill to me, Love, nay fill it up;
And, mingled, cast into the cup
Wit, and mirth, and noble fires,
Vigorous health, and gay desires.
The wheel of life no less will stay
In a smooth than rugged way:
Since it equally doth flee,
Let the motion pleasant be.
Why do we precious ointments show’r?
Noble wines why do we pour?
Beauteous flowers why do we spread,
Upon the monuments of the dead?
Nothing they but dust can show,
Or bones that hasten to be so.
Crown me with roses while I live,
Now your wines and ointments give;
After death I nothing crave.
Let me alive my pleasures have;
All are Stoics in the grave.

(From the Greek by Abraham Cowley)

Live To Learn

Learn to live, and live to learn;
Ignorance like a fire doth burn,
Little tasks make large return.

Toil, when willing, groweth less;
“Always play” may seem to bless,
Yet the end is weariness.

Live to learn, and learn to live,
Only this content can give;
Feckless joys are fugitive

Bayard Taylor
A stack of letters tied with rope with dry rose petals in nostalgic vintage background.

The Past

The past is such a curious creature,
To look her in the face
A transport may reward us,
Or a disgrace.
Unarmed if any meet her,
I charge him, fly!
Her rusty ammunition
Might yet reply!

Emily Dickinson

As I Grew Older

It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun,—
My dream.

And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose slowly, slowly,
The light of my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky,—
The wall.

I am black.

I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.

My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!

Langston Hughes

When My Soul Findeth Wings

Like roses the bright dream did pass,
On swift, noiseless footsteps away;
Like glistening dew on the grass,
Dissolving beneath the sun’s ray.

Like voice of the lark that doth soar,
Through the golden haze of the dawn;
You hear it and bend to adore,
Just hear it and then it is gone.

The lark on his swift, flashing wings,
Keeps pace with the flowers in their flight;
And that’s why when soaring he sings,
And passes so swiftly from sight.

I slept, and a vision did see,
Of eyes that were tender and blue;
I awoke to know that for me
The vision may never come true.

The lark soars no more in the skies,
He’s gone with the roses and dew;
The face with the soft tender eyes,
Comes never to gladden my view.

My memory holds images fair,
Of all these beautiful things;
Which I will be seeking somewhere,
When my soul, as lark, findeth wings.

Libbie C. Baer
A tree in the mist.

Renewal of Strength

The prison-house in which I live
Is falling to decay,
But God renews my spirit’s strength
Within these walls of clay.

For me a dimness slowly creeps
Around earth’s fairest light,
But heaven grows clearer to my view,
And fairer to my sight.

It may be earth’s sweet harmonies
Are duller to my ear,
But music from my Father’s house
Begins to float more near.

Then let the pillars of my home
Crumble and fall away;
Lo, God’s dear love within my soul
Renews it day by day.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Yesterday and To-morrow

Yesterday I held your hand,
Reverently I pressed it,
And its gentle yieldingness
From my soul I blessed it.

But to-day I sit alone,
Sad and sore repining;
Must our gold forever know
Flames for the refining?

Yesterday I walked with you,
Could a day be sweeter?
Life was all a lyric song
Set to tricksy meter.

Ah, to-day is like a dirge,—
Place my arms around you,
Let me feel the same dear joy
As when first I found you.

Let me once retrace my steps,
From these roads unpleasant,
Let my heart and mind and soul
All ignore the present.

Yesterday the iron seared
And to-day means sorrow.
Pause, my soul, arise, arise,
Look where gleams the morrow.

Paul Laurence Dunbar

A Song

Life is but a troubled ocean,
Hope a meteor, love a flower
Which blossoms in the morning beam,
And whithers with the evening hour.

Ambition is a dizzy height,
And glory, but a lightning gleam;
Fame is a bubble, dazzling bright,
Which fairest shines in fortune’s beam.

When clouds and darkness veil the skies,
And sorrow’s blast blows loud and chill,
Friendship shall like a rainbow rise,
And softly whisper—peace, be still.

Lucretia Maria Davidson

Star of Ethiopia

Out in the Night thou art the sun
Toward which thy soul-charmed children run,
The faith-high height whereon they see
The glory of their Day To Be—
The peace at last when all is done.

The night is dark but, one by one,
Thy signals, ever and anon,
Smile beacon answers to their plea,
Out in the Night.

Ah, Life! thy storms these cannot shun;
Give them a hope to rest upon,
A dream to dream eternally,
The strength of men who would be free
And win the battle race begun,
Out in the Night!

Lucian B. Watkins

Hopeful Poems About Life

Rainbow splashes colors on the dark cloud at sea.

I’ll Try

“The others will laugh,” said the Bugbear,
“And ridicule you on the sly.”
“Never mind,” said Jenny Endeavor,
“I’ll try.”
“You’ll surely break down.” said the Bugbear;
“You know you are terribly shy.”
“Never mind,” said Billy Endeavor,
“I’ll try.”
“It’s really too hard,” said the Bugbear;
“You might as well venture to fly.”
“Never mind,” said Susie Endeavor,
“I’ll try.”
“Just put the thing off,” said the Bugbear.
“And others the lack will supply.”
“I’ll not,” answered Tommy Endeavor,
“I’ll try.”


Life’s Harmonies

Let no man pray that he know not sorrow,
Let no soul ask to be free from pain,
For the gall of to-day is the sweet of to-morrow,
And the moment’s loss is the lifetime’s gain.

Through want of a thing does its worth redouble,
Through hunger’s pangs does the feast content,
And only the heart that has harboured trouble
Can fully rejoice when joy is sent.

Let no man shrink from the bitter tonics
Of grief, and yearning, and need, and strife,
For the rarest chords in the soul’s harmonics
Are found in the minor strains of life.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox


In facile natures fancies quickly grow,
But such quick fancies have but little root.
Soon the narcissus flowers and dies, but slow
The tree whose blossoms shall mature to fruit.
Grace is a moment’s happy feeling, Power
A life’s slow growth; and we for many an hour
Must strain and toil, and wait and weep, if we
The perfect fruit of all we are would see.

Leonardo da Vinci
(From the Italian by William Wetmore Story)
Keep moving phrase written on railway.

Keep Sweet and Keep Movin

Homely phrase of our southland bright—
Keep steady step to the flam of the drum;
Touch to the left—eyes to the right—
Sing with the soul tho’ the lips be dumb.
Hard to be good when the wind ’s in the east;
Hard to be gay when the heart is down;
When “they that trouble you are increased,”
When you look for a smile and see a frown.
“Keep sweet and keep movin’.”

Sorrow will shade the blue sky gray—
Gray is the color our brothers wore;
Sunshine will scatter the clouds away;
Azure will gleam in the skies once more.
Colors of Patience and Hope are they—
Always at even in one they blend;
Tinting the heavens by night and day,
Over our hearts to the journey’s end.
“Keep sweet and keep movin’.”

Hard to be sweet when the throng is dense,
When elbows jostle and shoulders crowd;
Easy to give and to take offence
When the touch is rough and the voice is loud;
“Keep to the right” in the city’s throng;
“Divide the road” on the broad highway;
There ’s one way right when everything ’s wrong;
“Easy and fair goes far in a day.”
“Keep sweet and keep movin’.”

The quick taunt answers the hasty word—
The lifetime chance for a “help” is missed;
The muddiest pool is a fountain stirred,
A kind hand clenched makes an ugly fist.
When the nerves are tense and the mind is vexed,
The spark lies close to the magazine;
Whisper a hope to the soul perplexed—
Banish the fear with a smile serene—
“Keep sweet and keep movin’.”

Robert Jones Burdette

Forth From Your Past!

Forth from your lowly Past! In humble wise
Up to the highest heaven lift your eyes.
No glories that the heroes ever knew
But God has placed them waiting there for you.
Forth from your evil Past! The shame and sin—
Dare now to live as they had never been.
In Jesus cleansed and in His sureness sure,
Know that the years to come are sweet und pure.
Forth from your troubled Past! How dark the days.
How dreary and perplexed your wandering waya!
Forget those fears and tears and scenes abhorred.
And enter all the joyance of your Lord.
Forth from your lonely Past! No comrade knew
Your inner warfare for the good and true;
But in the time to come till time shall end
You shall not lack a comrade and a friend.
Forth from your Past! ‘Twas given you to build
A Future from it all with blessings filled.
Enter its open gate its liberal door,
And live its happy lord for evermore.

Amos Russel Wells


This world that we’re a-livin’ in
Is mighty hard to beat,
For you get a thorn with every rose –
But ain’t the roses sweet!

Pretty girl with morning coffee at river sunrise.

The Dawn’s Awake!

The Dawn’s awake!
A flash of smoldering flame and fire
Ignites the East. Then, higher, higher,
O’er all the sky so gray, forlorn,
The torch of gold is borne.

The Dawn’s awake!
The dawn of a thousand dreams and thrills.
And music singing in the hills
A pæen of eternal spring
Voices the new awakening.

The Dawn’s awake!
Whispers of pent-up harmonies,
With the mingled fragrance of the trees;
Faint snaches of half-forgotten song—
Fathers! Torn and numb,—
The boon of light we craved, awaited long,
Has come, has come!

Otto Leland Bohanan

His Other Chance

He was down and out, and his pluck was gone,
And he said to me in a gloomy way:
“I’ve wasted my chances, one by one,
And I’m just no good, as the people say.

Nothing ahead, and my dreams all dust,
Though once there was something I might have been,
But I wasn’t game, and I broke my trust,
And I wasn’t straight and I wasn’t clean.”

“You’re pretty low down,” says I to him,
“But nobody’s holding you there, my friend.
Life is a stream where men sink or swim,
And the drifters come to a sorry end;

But there’s two of you living and breathing still—
The fellow you are, and he’s tough to see,
And another chap, if you’ve got the will,
The man that you still have a chance to be.”

He laughed with scorn. “Is there two of me?
I thought I’d murdered the other one.
I once knew a chap that I hoped to be,
And he was decent, but now he’s gone.”

“Well,” says I, “it may seem to you
That life has little of joy in store,
But there’s always something you still can do,
And there’s never a man but can try once more.

Edgar A. Guest

Go Give the World

I do not crave to have thee mine alone, dear
Keeping thy charms within my jealous sight;
Go, give the world the blessing of thy beauty,
That other hearts may share of my delight!

I do not ask, thy love should be mine only
While others falter through the dreary night;
Go, kiss the tears from some wayfarer’s vision,
That other eyes may know the joy of light!

Where days are sad and skies are hung with darkness,
Go, send a smile that sunshine may be rife;
Go, give a song, a word of kindly greeting,
To ease the sorrow of some lonely life!

Otto Leland Bohanan
Beautiful first spring flowers growing through the snow.

Good Life, Long Life

It is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make man better be;
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sear:
A lily of a day
Is fairer far in May,
Although it fall and die that night,—
It was the plant and flower of Light.
In small proportions we just beauties see,
And in short measures life may perfect be.

Ben Jonson

On Looking Up By Chance At The Constellations

You’ll wait a long, long time for anything much
To happen in heaven beyond the floats of cloud
And the Northern Lights that run like tingling nerves.
The sun and moon get crossed, but they never touch,
Nor strike out fire from each other nor crash out loud.
The planets seem to interfere in their curves
But nothing ever happens, no harm is done.
We may as well go patiently on with our life,
And look elsewhere than to stars and moon and sun
For the shocks and changes we need to keep us sane.
It is true the longest drought will end in rain,
The longest peace in China will end in strife.
Still it wouldn’t reward the watcher to stay awake
In hopes of seeing the calm of heaven break
On his particular time and personal sight.
That calm seems certainly safe to last to-night.

Robert Frost

Poets! Towers of God!

Poets! Towers of God
Made to resist the fury of the storms
Like cliffs beside the ocean
Or clouded, savage peaks!
Masters of lightning!
Breakwaters of eternity!

Hope, magic-voiced, foretells the day
When on the rock of harmony
The Siren traitorous shall die and pass away,
And there shall only be
The full, frank-billowed music of the sea.

Be hopeful still,
Though bestial elements yet turn
From Song with rancorous ill-will
And blinded races one another spurn!
Perversity debased
Among the high her rebel cry has raised.
The cannibal still lusts after the raw,
Knife-toothed and gory-faced.

Towers, your laughing banners now unfold.
Against all hatreds and all envious lies
Upraise the protest of the breeze, half-told,
And the proud quietness of sea and skies…

Rubén Darío

This Life

This Life, which seems so fair,
Is like a bubble blown up in the air
By sporting children’s breath,
Who chase it everywhere
And strive who can most motion it bequeath.
And though it sometimes seem of its own might
Like to an eye of gold to be fixed there,
And firm to hover in that empty height,
That only is because it is so light.
—But in that pomp it doth not long appear;
For when ’t is most admired, in a thought,
Because it erst was nought, it turns to nought.

William Drummond of Hawthornden

Poems About Happiness In Life

Group of friends happily running at sunrise.

The Character of a Happy Life

How happy is he born and taught
That serveth not another’s will;
Whose armor is his honest thought,
And simple truth his utmost skill!

Whose passions not his masters are;
Whose soul is still prepared for death,
Not tied unto the world with care
Of public fame or private breath;

Who envies none that chance doth raise,
Or vice; who never understood
How deepest wounds are given by praise,
Nor rules of state, but rules of good;

Who hath his life from rumors freed;
Whose conscience is his strong retreat;
Whose state can neither flatterers feed,
Nor ruin make accusers great;

Who God doth late and early pray
More of his grace than gifts to lend,
And entertains the harmless day
With a well-chosen book or friend,—

This man is freed from servile bands
Of hope to rise, or fear to fall;
Lord of himself, though not of lands;
And, having nothing, yet hath all.

Sir Henry Wotton

Light Is More Important Than The Lantern

Light is more important than the lantern,
The poem more important than the notebook,
And the kiss more important than the lips.
My letters to you
Are greater and more important than both of us.
They are the only documents
Where people will discover
Your beauty
And my madness.

Nizar Qabbani

Life’s Grandest Things

What is the greatest work of all?
The work that comes every day;
The work that waits us on ev’ry hand
Is work that, for us, is truly grand,
And the love of work is our pay.

What is the highest life of all?
It is living, day by day,
True to ourselves and true to the right,
Living the truth from dawn till the night,
And the love of truth for our pay.

What is the grandest thing of all –
Is it winning Heaven some day?
No, and a thousand times say no;
‘Tis making this old world thrill and glow
With the sun of love till each shall know
Something of Heaven here below,
And God’s well done for our pay.

Jean Blewett
Asphalt road in Alp mountains.

The Optimist

Who would have the sky any color but blue,
Or the grass any color but green?
Or the flowers that bloom the summer through
Of other color or sheen?

How the sunshine gladdens the human heart—
How the sound of the falling rain
Will cause the tender tears to start,
And free the soul from pain.

Oh, this old world is a great old place!
And I love each season’s change,
The river, the brook of purling grace,
The valley, the mountain range.

And when I am called to quit this life,
My feet will not spurn the sod,
Though I leave this world with its beauty rife,—
There’s a glorious one with God!

J. W. Hammond

My Heart Leaps Up

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

William Wordsworth

Such Is the Force of Happiness

Such is the Force of Happiness-
The Least-can lift a Ton
Assisted by its stimulus-
Who Misery-sustain-
No Sinew can afford-
The Cargo of Themselves-
Too infinite for Consciousness’
Slow capabilities.

Emily Dickinson
Sunflower with funny face in a field of sunflower.

The Man Who Is Cheerful

Thank God for the man who is cheerful
In spite of life’s troubles, I say;

Who sings of a bright tomorrow,
Because of the clouds of today.

His life is a beautiful sermon,
And this is the lesson to me –

Meet trials with smiles and they vanish;
Face cares with a song and they flee.


A September Night

The full September moon sheds floods of light,
And all the bayou’s face is gemmed with stars,
Save where are dropped fantastic shadows down
From sycamores and moss-hung cypress trees.
With slumberous sound the waters half asleep
Creep on and on their way, ’twixt rankish reeds,
Through marsh and lowlands stretching to the Gulf.
Begirt with cotton fields, Anguilla sits
Half bird-like, dreaming on her Summer nest.
Amid her spreading figs and roses, still
In bloom with all their Spring and Summer hues,
Pomegranates hang with dapple cheeks full ripe,
And over all the town a dreamy haze
Drops down. The great plantations, stretching far
Away, are plains of cotton, downy white.
O, glorious is this night of joyous sounds;
Too full for sleep. Aromas wild and sweet,
From muscadine, late blooming jessamine,
And roses, all the heavy air suffuse.
Faint bellows from the alligators come
From swamps afar, where sluggish lagoons give
To them a peaceful home. The katydids
Make ceaseless cries. Ten thousand insects’ wings
Stir in the moonlight haze and joyous shouts
Of Negro song and mirth awake hard by
The cabin dance. O, glorious is this night!
The Summer sweetness fills my heart with songs,
I can not sing, with loves I can not speak.

George Marion McClellan

A Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.

Robert Frost
Beautiful sunset view through tall beach grasses on the Baltic Sea.

You Need Not Leave Your Room

You need not leave your room.
Remain seated at your table
and listen. You need not even listen;
simply wait; just be quiet, still, solitary.

The world will freely offer
itself to you to be unmasked.
It has no choice; it will roll
in ecstasy at your feet.

Franz Kafka

A Rule For Happiness

Live right! Be pure! With conscience clear,
Have nought to fear from year to year.
Be quick to lend a helping hand
To suffering ones throughout the land.
Take this old world as it is;
Make the best of it you can.
Love not riches, honor, fame,
But love the more your fellowman.
Seek joy in every path you tread;
Be sure of love before you wed.
Trust everything to love divine;
True happiness will then be thine.



O, come, Love, let us take a walk,
Down the Way-of-Life together;
Storms may come, but what care we,
If be fair or foul the weather.

When the sky overhead is blue,
Balmy, scented winds will after
Us, adown the valley blow
Haunting echoes of our laughter.

When Life’s storms upon us beat
Crushing us with fury, after
All is done, there’ll ringing come
Mocking echoes of our laughter.

So we’ll walk the Way-of-Life,
You and I, Love, both together,
Storm or sunshine, happy we
If be foul or fair the weather.

Carrie Williams Clifford

The Flower at My Window

O! my heart now feels so cheerful as I go with footsteps light
In the daily toil of my dear home;
And I’ll tell to you the secret that now makes my life so bright—
There’s a flower at my window in full bloom.

It is radiant in the sunshine, and so cheerful after rain;
And it wafts upon the air its sweet perfume.
It is very, very lovely! May its beauties never wane—
This dear flower at my window in full bloom.

Nature has so clothed it in such glorious array,
And it does so cheer our home, and hearts illume;
Its dear mem’ry I will cherish though the flower fade away—
This dear flower at my window in full bloom.

Oft I gaze upon this flower with its blossoms pure and white.
And I think as I behold its gay costume,
While through life we all are passing may our lives be always bright
Like this flower at my window in full bloom.

Lucian B. Watkins