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A Favorite Poem 
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Post Persimmons
I am trying very hard to commit a poem to memory; a very challenging task for me. I've chosen a poem of Li-young Lee's called, "From Blossoms." Seeking a copy of this poem I found several others by Lee that are also formed around a fruit and a new favorite poem. This is long, but well worth the space it takes up! I especially like how Lee weaves together several different ideas, connecting them with the word persimmon and the experience of confusing one word with another.

Persimmons

by Li-Young Lee
In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner
for not knowing the difference
between persimmon and precision.
How to choose

persimmons. This is precision.
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant. How to eat:
put the knife away, lay down newspaper.
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.
Chew the skin, suck it,
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit,
so sweet,
all of it, to the heart.

Donna undresses, her stomach is white.
In the yard, dewy and shivering
with crickets, we lie naked,
face-up, face-down.
I teach her Chinese.
Crickets: chiu chiu. Dew: I’ve forgotten.
Naked: I’ve forgotten.
Ni, wo: you and me.
I part her legs,
remember to tell her
she is beautiful as the moon.

Other words
that got me into trouble were
fight and fright, wren and yarn.
Fight was what I did when I was frightened,
Fright was what I felt when I was fighting.
Wrens are small, plain birds,
yarn is what one knits with.
Wrens are soft as yarn.
My mother made birds out of yarn.
I loved to watch her tie the stuff;
a bird, a rabbit, a wee man.

Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class
and cut it up
so everyone could taste
a Chinese apple. Knowing
it wasn’t ripe or sweet, I didn’t eat
but watched the other faces.

My mother said every persimmon has a sun
inside, something golden, glowing,
warm as my face.

Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper,
forgotten and not yet ripe.
I took them and set both on my bedroom windowsill,
where each morning a cardinal
sang, The sun, the sun.

Finally understanding
he was going blind,
my father sat up all one night
waiting for a song, a ghost.
I gave him the persimmons,
swelled, heavy as sadness,
and sweet as love.

This year, in the muddy lighting
of my parents’ cellar, I rummage, looking
for something I lost.
My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs,
black cane between his knees,
hand over hand, gripping the handle.
He’s so happy that I’ve come home.
I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question.
All gone, he answers.

Under some blankets, I find a box.
Inside the box I find three scrolls.
I sit beside him and untie
three paintings by my father:
Hibiscus leaf and a white flower.
Two cats preening.
Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth.

He raises both hands to touch the cloth,
asks, Which is this?

This is persimmons, Father.

Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk,
the strength, the tense
precision in the wrist.
I painted them hundreds of times
eyes closed. These I painted blind.
Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.


_________________
In love we are made visible
As in a magic bath
are unpeeled
to the sharp pit
so long concealed
--May Swenson


Thu Apr 02, 2009 9:19 pm
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Post Great things have happened
I have only read one of Gilly Cooper's books - The grey king. I found it, like some other Welsh literature, very bleak. It was good though.

This next poem isnt the most technically complex of poems. It is good though, maybe because I, as I suppose many people taking part in those young student through the night chats, can relate to it.

Great things have happened, Alden Nowlan

We were talking about the great things
that have happened in our lifetimes;
and I said, "Oh, I suppose the moon landing
was the greatest thing that has happened
in my time." But, of course, we were all lying.
The truth is the moon landing didn't mean
one-tenth as much to me as one night in 1963
when we lived in a three-room flat in what once had been
the mansion of some Victorian merchant prince
(our kitchen had been a clothes closet, I'm sure),
on a street where by now nobody lived
who could afford to live anywhere else.
That night, the three of us, Claudine, Johnnie and me,
woke up at half-past four in the morning
and ate cinnamon toast together.

"Is that all?" I hear somebody ask.

Oh, but we were silly with sleepiness
and, under our windows, the street-cleaners
were working their machines and conversing in Italian, and
everything was strange without being threatening,
even the tea-kettle whistled differently
than in the daytime: it was like the feeling
you get sometimes in a country you've never visited
before, when the bread doesn't taste quite the same,
the butter is a small adventure, and they put
paprika on the table instead of pepper,
except that there was nobody in this country
except the three of us, half-tipsy with the wonder
of being alive, and wholly enveloped in love.



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Fri Apr 03, 2009 2:09 am
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Post For GentleReader9 re: A Favorite Poem
In one of your posts, you mentioned memorizing "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" from an LP. It's possible that you're referring to a 1954 recording of Peter and the Wolf, Sorcerer's Apprentice, and Hewnry VIII Dances (RCA Victor LM-1803). The narrator was a dear friend of my family named Richard Hale. While his voice sounds British, he was actually from Tennessee. I knew him while I was growing up in Southern California. He'd dress up and perform as Abraham Lincoln at my elementary school every year, long before reenacting became popular. I was in Cub Scouts with a member of his extended family, and he in fact inspired many of my efforts in theater. His filmography is at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0354989/.

If you no longer have the LP, I have some MP3s if you'd like - Please send me a message with a destination email.

All the best,

Dave Scott



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Mon May 04, 2009 10:27 am
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Post So many favorites
I was trying to think of one of my most favorite poems and there are so many. But one of the earliest poems I can recall enjoying, at the age of 13, was Minstrel Man by Langston Hughes. The most moving and truly inspiring part of this poem is that I found the poem in an old English book that I got at a garage sale which housed such wonderful pieces of literature as the 51st Dragon and Minstrel Man and I didn't know that Langston Hughes was black or that he was referring to the plight of the African Americans who served European Americans. Instead, I saw the plight of the poor and the female and everyone who has been told to "get over it" or "be more positive" when they felt like killing someone or crying their eyes out. Here is the poem, judge for yourself how moving, albeit brief, it is.

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?



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Tue May 05, 2009 8:15 pm
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Post 
Came across this by Emily Brontë while reading Harold Bloom's How to Read and Why. I don't know why, but it appeals to me.

Often rebuked, yet always back returning

OFTEN rebuked, yet always back returning
To those first feelings that were born with me,
And leaving busy chase of wealth and learning
For idle dreams of things which cannot be:

Today, I will not seek the shadowy region;
Its unsustaining vastness waxes drear;
And visions rising, legion after legion,
Bring the unreal world too strangely near.

I'll walk, but not in old heroic traces,
And not in paths of high morality,
And not among the half-distinguished faces,
The clouded forms of long-past history.

I'll walk where my own nature would be leading:
It vexes me to choose another guide:
Where the grey flocks in ferny glens are feeding;
Where the wild wind blows on the mountain-side.

What have those lonely mountains worth revealing?
More glory, and more grief, than I can tell:
The earth that wakes one human heart to feeling
Can centre both the worlds of Heaven and Hell.


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Post 
Here's an analysis of aforementioned (Brontë) poem by Christopher Nield:

In this magnificent poem, Emily Brontë meditates on the competing claims of early instinct, imaginative aspiration, material success, and spiritual rapture. We are immediately swept up into its intense drama by one of the most stirring lines in literature: "Often rebuked, yet always back returning." As with "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" or "I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree," it enters the mind and there it takes up home, never to leave.

This opening line may echo one of the Biblical proverbs of Solomon: "He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." This is a warning against pride; yet with almost shocking bluntness, Brontë shrugs off this advice, asserting her fierce independence, impatient with any guide save her own implacable will.

As an adult, her journey in life has come full circle. She returns to those "first feelings" that entered into the world with her, and so she passes from experience to a kind of incandescent innocence. When she describes her rejection of "wealth" and book learning for "idle dreams of things which cannot be," is she mimicking those who have sneered at her lack of worldliness? In this phrase, we seem to hear the teacher yelling at her for staring out the window; the priest demanding that she goes back to her Bible lesson; the father fed up with her storytelling.

If Brontë is mocking those authority figures that laughed at her in the past, the "unreal world" must refer back to the dizzy merry-go-round of civilized existence. She's turning the tables on those who have criticized her dreaminess, showing that the so-called real world is the most shadowy of all. Alternatively, she may be resisting the call of the "unreal" imagination, as if she's decided to put down her novel, put on her bonnet, and go outside for a breath of fresh air. Perhaps she is afraid that art, as much as commercial society, could take her away from her first and only love: The brute and restorative force of nature.

In the second and third stanzas, "not" is repeated four times in only eight lines, carrying with it a ritualistic sense of casting away everything that is deemed insubstantial, alien, distracting. She scorns the "traces" of past glory and the "paths of high morality" that may have once tempted her. The faces "distinguished" in the world's eyes from the mob are themselves lapsing into oblivion. In the fourth stanza she moves from negation to affirmation. The repetition of "walk," along with the insistent iambic pentameter of the lines, really evokes her lone, determined trek upwards. This scene is, for me, indelibly linked with the conclusion to Wordsworth's poem "Tintern Abbey," in which he describes his sister's "solitary walk" as the "misty mountain-winds" blow against her. Her figure silhouetted against the moon, with nothing but her "cheerful faith" to lead her on, remains as moving now as it was two centuries ago. It is an icon of human freedom.

Brontë's landscape, with its sheep and "wild wind," is one of humility and violence. Subliminally, we absorb this vision through the poem's rhyme scheme, which alternates between what are traditionally known as feminine and masculine rhymes. The first melt away, the second finish resoundingly: "reTURNing," "ME" "LEARNing" "BE" and so on. Beginning with a feminine rhyme and ending with a masculine one, the poem traces an arc of yin and yang, grace and power.

Turning her back on society, Brontë appears to have chosen obscurity and nothingness. Yet this impression is exploded in the final stanza, where her exile turns out to be nothing less than a transfiguration. On the heights of the moorland, at the point where rock and sky meet, she comes to know herself as the center of creation. It is the outpouring of "feeling" in the hardened human heart, as it beholds the beauty and majesty of nature, which unifies "heaven and hell." Without such ecstasy, Brontë suggests, the universe would collapse into chaos.


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Mon Jun 01, 2009 2:18 pm
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Post Defiance
Hello all. I truly enjoy reading these wonderful poems so please continue to post your poem of the moment. Today I am feeling defiant so I decided to share a bit of Maya Angelou.

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou



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Tue Jun 02, 2009 5:37 pm
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Post 
For when the soul, the which derived was,
At first, out of that great immortal Spright,
By whom all live to love, whilom did pass
Down from the top of purest heaven's height
To be embodied here, it then took light
And lively spirits from that fairest star,
Which lights the world forth from his fiery car.


Which power retaining still or more or less,
When she in fleshly seed is eft enraced,
Through every part she doth the same impress,
According as the heavens have her graced,
And frames her house, in which she will be placed,
Fit for herself, adorning it with spoil
Of th' heavenly riches which she robb'd erewhile.


Thereof it comes that these fair souls, which have
The most resemblance of that heavenly light,
Frame to themselves most beautiful and brave
Their fleshly bower, most fit for their delight,
And the gross matter by a sovereign might
Tempers so trim, that it may well be seen
A palace fit for such a virgin queen.


So every spirit, as it is most pure,
And hath in it the more of heavenly light,
So it the fairer body doth procure
To habit in, and it more fairly dight
With cheerful grace and amiable sight.
For of the soul the body form doth take:
For soul is form, and doth the body make.

From An Hymn In Honour Of Beauty
by Edmund Spenser
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive ... ?id=174481



Mon Jun 15, 2009 8:04 pm
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Post Percy Bysshe Shelley
Three years ago I first heard this poem on a documentary about Ramesses the Great and it has been with me ever since. It's the only poem I can fully recite from memory.

OZYMANDIAS

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.



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Tue Aug 04, 2009 6:47 am
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Post Re: Percy Bysshe Shelley
lottebeertje wrote:
Three years ago I first heard this poem on a documentary about Ramesses the Great and it has been with me ever since. It's the only poem I can fully recite from memory.
OZYMANDIAS


I think this would be a wonderful poem to hear out loud. Thanks for sharing it.


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As in a magic bath
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--May Swenson


Sun Aug 09, 2009 9:02 pm
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Post 
When I was younger I would carry around Shel Silversteins "Where the Sidewalk Ends" with me and read the poems over and over. Their simple nature always brought a smile to my face. One of my favorite poems of his is this:

Smart

My dad gave me one dollar bill
'Cause I'm his smartest son,
And I swapped it for two shiny quarters
'Cause two is more than one!

And then i took the quarters
And traded them to Lou
For three dimes-i guess he don't know
that three is more than two!

Just then, along came old blind Bates
And just 'cause he can't see
He gave me four nickels for my three dimes,
And four is more than three!

And i took the nickels to Hiram Coombs
Down at the seed-feed store,
and the fool gave me five pennies for them,
And five is more than four!

And then i went and showed my dad,
and he got red in the cheeks
And closed his eyes and shook his head-
Too proud of me to speak!



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Fri Aug 21, 2009 10:11 am
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Post 
Li-Young Lee's poem Persimmons is one of my most favorite poems. I like to think about and sometimes find myself longing to read it. I love the word play. It is long, but I just have to post the whole thing!

Persimmons

by Li-Young Lee
In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner
for not knowing the difference
between persimmon and precision.
How to choose

persimmons. This is precision.
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant. How to eat:
put the knife away, lay down newspaper.
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.
Chew the skin, suck it,
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit,
so sweet,
all of it, to the heart.

Donna undresses, her stomach is white.
In the yard, dewy and shivering
with crickets, we lie naked,
face-up, face-down.
I teach her Chinese.
Crickets: chiu chiu. Dew: I’ve forgotten.
Naked: I’ve forgotten.
Ni, wo: you and me.
I part her legs,
remember to tell her
she is beautiful as the moon.

Other words
that got me into trouble were
fight and fright, wren and yarn.
Fight was what I did when I was frightened,
Fright was what I felt when I was fighting.
Wrens are small, plain birds,
yarn is what one knits with.
Wrens are soft as yarn.
My mother made birds out of yarn.
I loved to watch her tie the stuff;
a bird, a rabbit, a wee man.

Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class
and cut it up
so everyone could taste
a Chinese apple. Knowing
it wasn’t ripe or sweet, I didn’t eat
but watched the other faces.

My mother said every persimmon has a sun
inside, something golden, glowing,
warm as my face.

Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper,
forgotten and not yet ripe.
I took them and set both on my bedroom windowsill,
where each morning a cardinal
sang, The sun, the sun.

Finally understanding
he was going blind,
my father sat up all one night
waiting for a song, a ghost.
I gave him the persimmons,
swelled, heavy as sadness,
and sweet as love.

This year, in the muddy lighting
of my parents’ cellar, I rummage, looking
for something I lost.
My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs,
black cane between his knees,
hand over hand, gripping the handle.
He’s so happy that I’ve come home.
I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question.
All gone, he answers.

Under some blankets, I find a box.
Inside the box I find three scrolls.
I sit beside him and untie
three paintings by my father:
Hibiscus leaf and a white flower.
Two cats preening.
Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth.

He raises both hands to touch the cloth,
asks, Which is this?

This is persimmons, Father.

Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk,
the strength, the tense
precision in the wrist.
I painted them hundreds of times
eyes closed. These I painted blind.
Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.


_________________
In love we are made visible
As in a magic bath
are unpeeled
to the sharp pit
so long concealed
--May Swenson


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Sat Nov 07, 2009 10:56 pm
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Post Re: GentleReader9
Dear GentleReader9:

Do you know the author of that translation of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" of which you posted an excerpt?

Thanks

wegelin


[quote="GentleReader9"]Thanks for looking it up for me, DWill. I am [i]so [/i]lazy. But I am grateful, which causes others to forgive me, more often than not. I have a few things in my memory. It's wierd what they are and where the memory breaks down. Frequently I can't quite remember my own poems that I have actually written and re-written, and you would think one would remember how they go after that. Then there are others I haven't even read very many times that just stick.

Many of T.S. Eliot's Practical Cats poems, zillions of nursery rhymes, the stray Bible verse, [i]lots[/i] of raving maniacal nonsense. Once I tried to memorize the entire "The Hunting of the Snark" by Lewis Carroll and I got pretty far, too. And I [i]did[/i] memorize this long poem we had on an LP, back when they had 78 RPM records about "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" by Paul Ducas (sp?) which used to crack my mother up because I recited it imitating the British accent and crafty manner of the narrator who read it on the album:

So. He's gone, the wise, old wizard.
And for once [i]alone[/i] I find me.
And I [i]feel it in my gizzard[/i]
[i]I[/i] can make his spirits mind me.
Each look, each word he muttered,
I [i]marked[/i]. With much ado,
With spirits nicely buttered,
I'll make magic, too!
Wander, wander, faster, faster,
Fetch your master
Water gushing from the fountain!
Let it thunder down the bath in torrents rushing!
Now come, old broom.
Stop acting surly.
Wrap the ragged ragmops round you.
You've served [i]him[/i] late and early.
To [i]my[/i] bidding now I've bound you.
With two legs for prancing,
A head, and arms galore,
Quick! Some necromancing!
Make that bucket pour.
Wander, wander, faster, faster....

I will spare you the entire thing. But I do think I still have most of it, prancing in pretentious and overly animated tones through my head like "Carlos Among the Candles."

Once in a rare while I have something really good like a Shakespeare sonnet or soliloquy, Gerard Manley Hopkins' "Spring and Fall to a Young Child," Dylan Thomas' "The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower," or "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night," or an Emily Dickinson poem or two. Usually it's just a lot of sounds that might as well be "Fox in Socks," which I do love to read aloud, fast because of how it feels in your mouth. Just like a wonderful caramel dessert. Or chanting really fast bhajans, "Shiva-sharavanabhava-subramanyam, Guru-sharavanabhava-subramanyam...."

And then of course the inadvertently memorized prose passages beginning with things like, "Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path..." or "If we are painstaking in this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through..." or "Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize that we know only a little...." etc., etc. What kinds of things stick in [i]your[/i] memory?[/quote]



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Sat Aug 18, 2012 1:38 pm
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Post Re: A Favorite Poem
I'm not sure about a favourite poem, but one of my favourite poets is the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. here is a short poem as example:

Interrelationship

You are me, and I am you.
Isn't it obvious that we "inter-are"?
You cultivate the flower in yourself,
so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself,
so that you will not have to suffer.

I support you;
you support me.
I am in this world to offer you peace;
you are in this world to bring me joy


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Sat Sep 01, 2012 10:18 am
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Post Re: A Favorite Poem
There are many poems I love; some inspirational (like the following), some humorous, some just a rousing good read. But if I had to pick a favorite, wold be "If" by Rudyard Kipling.

IF

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

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

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

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


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Sat Sep 01, 2012 1:41 pm
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