War Time Rhymes
by Edgar A. Guest
(published 1918)


Reflection


You have given me riches and ease,
You have given me joys through the years,
I have sat in the shade of your trees,
With the song of your birds in my ears.
I have drunk of your bountiful wine
And done as I've chosen to do,
But, oh, wonderful country of mine,
How little have I done for you!

You have given me safe harbor from harm,
Untroubled I've slept through the nights
And have waked to the new morning's charm
And claimed as my own its delights.
I have taken the finest of fine
From your orchards and fields where it grew,
But, oh wonderful country of mine,
How little I've given to you!

You have given me a home and a place
Where in safety my babies may play;
Health blooms on each bright dimpled face
And laughter is theirs every day.
You have guarded from danger the shrine
Where I worship when toiling is through,
But, oh wonderful country of mine,
How little have I done for you!

I have taken your gifts without thought,
I have reveled in joys that you gave,
That I see now with blood had been bought,
The blood of your earlier braves.
I have lived without making one sign
That the source of my riches I knew,
Now, oh wonderful country of mine,
I'm here to do something for you!



A Wish


God grant my children may
Not think in terms of gold
When I have passed away
And my poor form is cold.
When I no more shall be,
If of me they would brag,
I'd have them speak of me
As one who loved the Flag.

God grant my children may
Not speak of me as one
Who trod a selfish way,
When I am dead and gone.
When they recall my name
I'd have them tell that I
Held dear my Country's fame
And kept her standards high.

Not for the things I gave
Would I be counted kind;
When I am in my grave,
If they my worth would find,
I'd have them read it there
In red and white and blue
And stars of radiance rare!
And say that I was true.



Living


If through the years we're not to do
Much finer deeds than we have done;
If we must merely wander through
Time's garden, idling in the sun;
If there is nothing big ahead,
Why do we fear to join the dead?

Unless to-morrow means that we
Shall do some needed service here;
That tasks are waiting you and me
That will be lost, save we appear;
Then why this dreadful thought of sorrow
That we may never see to-morrow?

If all our finest deeds are done,
And all our splendor's in the past;
If there's no battle to be won,
What matter if today's our last?
Is life so sweet that we would live
Though nothing back to life we give?

Not to have lived through seventy years
Is greatness. Fitter to be sung
In poet's praises and in cheers
Is he who dies in action, young;
Who ventures all for one great deed
And lives his life to serve life's need.



Life's Slacker


The saddest sort of death to die
Would be to quit the game called life
And know, beneath the gentle sky,
You'd lived a slacker in the strife.
That nothing men on earth would find
To mark the spot that you had filled;
That you must go and leave behind
No patch of soil yours hands had tilled.

I know no greater shame than this:
To feel that yours were empty years;
That after death no man would miss
Your presence in this vale of tears;
That you had breathed the fragrant air
And sat by kindly fires that burn,
And in earth's riches had a share
But gave no labor in return.

Yet some men die this way, nor care:
They enter and they leave life's door
And at the end, their record's bareó
The world's no better than before.
A few false tears are shed, and then,
In busy service, they're forgot.
We have no time to mourn for men
Who lived on earth but served it not.

A man in perfect peace to die
Must leave some mark of toil behind,
Some building towering to the sky,
Some symbol that his heart was kind,
Some roadway where strange feet may tread
That out of gratitude he made;
He cannot bravely look ahead
Unless his debt to life is paid.



The Proof of Worth


Though victory's proof of the skill you possess,
Defeat is the proof of your grit;
A weakling can smile in his days of success,
But at trouble's first sign he will quit.
So the test of the heart and the test of your pluck
Isn't skies that are sunny and fair,
But how do you stand to the blow that is struck
And how do you battle despair?

A fool can seem wise when the pathway is clear
And it's easy to see the way out,
But the test of man's judgment is something to fear,
And what does he do when in doubt?
And the proof of his faith is the courage he shows
When sorrows lie deep in his breast;
It's the way that he suffers the griefs that he knows
That brings out his worst or his best.

The test of a man is how much he will bear
For a cause which he knows to be right,
How long will he stand in the depths of despair,
How much will he suffer and fight?
There are many to serve when the victory's near
And few are the hurts to be borne,
But it calls for a leader of courage to cheer
The men in a battle forlorn.

It's the way you hold out against odds that are great
That proves what your courage is worth,
It's the way that you stand to the bruises of fate
That shows up your stature and girth.
And victory's nothing but proof of your skills,
Veneered with a glory that's thin,
Unless it is proof of unfaltering will,
And unless you have suffered to win.



I Follow a Famous Father


I follow a famous father,
His honor is mine to wear;
He gave me a name that was free from shame,
A name he was proud to bear.
He lived in the morning sunlight,
And marched in the ranks of right.
He was always true to the best he knew
And the shield that he wore was bright.

I follow a famous father,
And never a day goes by
But I feel that he looks down to me
To carry his standard high.
He stood to the sternest trials
As only a brave man can;
Though the way be long, I must never wrong
The name of so good a man.

I follow a famous father,
Not known to the printed page,
Nor written down in the world's renown
As a prince of his little age.
But never a stain attached to him
And never he stooped to shame;
He was bold and brave and to me he gave
The pride of an honest name.

I follow a famous father,
And him I must keep in mind;
Though his form is gone, I must carry on
That name that he left behind.
It was mine on the day he gave it,
It shone as a monarch's crown,
And as fair to see as it came to me
It must be when I pass it down.





© 1999, Lynn Waterman