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Labor Day
NAVIGATION
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Labor in Deuteronomy 
Poetry
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Labor Day
Poetry
Table of Contents

Life's Single Standard

 The Village Blacksmith
   

Labor's Songs

 Onward !
   

Ploughman at the Plough

Can't 
   

Courage 

 On Quitting
   

The Few

They Who Tread
the Path of Labor
   

Defeat 

To-Morrow
   

Results & Roses

How Do You Tackle
Your Work?
   

Success & Failure 

Duty
   

Promotion 

Preparedness
   

Purpose 

Opportunity
   

Greatness 

Be A Friend
   

The Miller of the Dee

The Quitter


 

Life's Single Standard
by Edgar Guest


There are a thousand ways to cheat and a thousand ways to sin;
There are ways uncounted to lose the game, but there's only one way to win;
And whether you live by the sweat of your brow or in luxury's garb you're dressed,
You shall stand at last, when your race is run, to be judged by the single test.

Some men lie by the things they make; some lie in the deeds they do;
And some play false for a woman's love, and some for a cheer or two;
Some rise to fame by the force of skill, grow great by the might of power,
Then wreck the temple they toiled to build, in a single, shameful hour.

The follies outnumber the virtues good; sin lures in a thousand ways;
But slow is the growth of man's character and patience must mark his days;
For only those victories shall count, when the work of life is done,
Which bear the stamp of an honest man, and by courage and faith were won.

There are a thousand ways to fail, but only one way to win !
Sham cannot cover the wrong you do nor wash out a single sin,
And never shall victory come to you, whatever of skill you do,
Save you've done your best in the work of life and unto your best were true.

 

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THE VILLAGE BLACKSMITH
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate'er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.

Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.

And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing-floor.

He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter's voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.

It sounds to him like her mother's voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.

Toiling,—rejoicing,—sorrowing,
Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close;
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night's repose.

Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and though

 

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Labor's Songs


From the mountain and the valley,
   From the wayside and the glen,
From the street and from the alley,
   Come the songs of working men.

Where the fire is brightly glowing,
  By the furnace and the mold,
Where the lurid flame is flowing,
   Labor's songs are sung and told.

Where the hammers ply the quiest,
   And the anvil's notes resound,
Where the sparks are flying thickest,
   There do labor's songs abound.

Where the husbandman is plowing,
   Throwing up the yielding soil,
And the sower busy sowing
   That which yields him bread for toil;

Where the sickle gleams so brightly,
   As the reaper strides along;
Where the gleaners follow lightly,
   There they chant the labor song.

Where the ponderous wheels are rushing,
   In the mill so worn and old, —
Hark ! the songs of labor gushing
   As are crushed the grains of gold.

Thus, from mountain and from valley,
   From the wayside and the glen,
From busy street and crowded alley,
   Come the songs of workingmen.

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Onward !
J. K. Lombard


Not, my soul, what thou hast done,
   But what thou now art doing;
Not the course which thou hast run.
   But that which thou'rt pursuing;
Not the prize already won,
   But that which thou art wooing;

Thy progression, not thy rest;
   Striving, not attaining, —
Is the measure and the test
   Of thy hope remaining.
Not in gain art thou so blest
   As in conscious gaining.

If thou to the Past wilt go,
   Of Experience learning,
Faults and follies it can show,
   Wisdom dearly earning;
But the path once trodden, know,
   Hath no more returning.

Let not thy good hope depart,
   Sit not down bewailing;
Rouse thy strength anew, brave heart !
   'Neath despair's assailing;
This will give thee fairer start, —
   Knowledge of thy failing.

Yet shall every rampart wrong
   In the dust be lying;
Soon thy foes, though proud and strong,
   In defeat be flying;
Then shall a triumphant song
   Take the place of sighing.

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Ploughman at the Plough
Louis Golding (1612 - 1650)


HE behind the straight plough stands
Stalwart, firm shafts in his hands.

Naught he cares for wars and naught
For the fierce disease of thought.

Only for the winds, the sheer
Naked impule of the year,

Only for the soil which stares
Clean into God's face he cares.

In the stark might of his deed
There is more than art or creed;

In his wrist more strength is hid
Than in the monstrous pyramid;

Stauncher than stern Everest
Be the muscles of his breast;

Not the Atlantic sweeps a flood
Potent as the ploughman's blood.

He, his horse, his ploughshare, these
Are the onnly verities.

Dawn to dusk with God he stands,
The earth poised on his broad hands.

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Can't
Edgar Guest


Can't is the worst word that's written or spoken;
Doing more harm here than slander and lies;
On it is many a strong spirit broken,
And with it many a good purpose dies.
It springs from the lips of the thoughtless each morning
And robs us of courage we need through the day:
It rings in our ears like a timely-sent warning
And laughs when we falter and fall by the way.

Can't is the father of feeble endeavor,
The parent of terror and half-hearted work;
It weakens the efforts of artisans clever,
And makes of the toiler an indolent shirk.
It poisons the soul of the man with a vision,
It stifles in infancy many a plan;
It greets honest toiling with open derision
And mocks at the hopes and the dreams of a man.

Can't is a word none should speak without blushing;
To utter it should be a symbol of shame;
Ambition and courage it daily is crushing;
It blights a man's purpose and shortens his aim.
Despise it with all of your hatred of error;
Refuse it the lodgment it seeks in your brain;
Arm against it as a creature of terror,
And all that you dream of you some day shall gain.

Can't is the word that is foe to ambition,
An enemy ambushed to shatter your will;
Its prey is forever the man with a mission
And bows but to courage and patience and skill.
Hate it, with hatred that's deep and undying,
For once it is welcomed 'twill break any man;
Whatever the goal you are seeking, keep trying
And answer this demon by saying:  "I can."

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Courage
Edgar Guest


Courage isn't a brilliant dash,
A daring deed in a moment's flash;
It isn't an instantaneous thing
Born of despair with a sudden spring
It isn't a creature of flickered hope
Or the final tug at a slipping rope;
But it's something deep in the soul of man
That is working always to serve some plan.

Courage isn't the last resort
In the work of life or the game of sport;
It isn't a thing that a man can call
At some future time when he's apt to fall;
If he hasn't it now, he will have it not
When the strain is great and the pace is hot.
For who would strive for a distant goal
Must always have courage within his soul.

Courage isn't a dazzling light
That flashes and passes away from sight;
It's a slow, unwavering, ingrained trait
With the patience to work and the strength to wait.
It's part of a man when his skies are blue,
It's part of him when he has work to do.
The brave man never is freed of it.
He has it when there is no need of it.

Courage was never designed for show;
It isn't a thing that can come and go;
It's written in victory and defeat
And every trial a man may meet.
It's part of his hours, his days and his years,
Back of his smiles and behind his tears.
Courage is more than a daring deed:
It's the breath of life and a strong man's creed.

 

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On Quitting
Edgar Guest


How much grit do you think you've got?
Can you quit a thing that you like a lot?
You may talk of pluck; it's an easy word,
And where'er you go it is often heard;
But can you tell to a jot or guess
Just how much courage you now possess?

You may stand to trouble and keep your grin,
But have you tackled self-discipline?
Have you ever issued commands to you
To quit the things that you like to do,
And then, when tempted and sorely swayed,
Those rigid orders have you obeyed?

Don't boast of your grit till you've tried it out,
Nor prate to men of your courage stout,
For it's easy enough to retain a grin
In the face of a fight there's a chance to win,
But the sort of grit that is good to own
Is the stuff you need when you're all alone.

How much grit do you think you've got?
Can you turn from joys that you like a lot?
Have you ever tested yourself to know
How far with yourself your will can go?
If you want to know if you have grit,
Just pick out a joy that you like, and quit.

It's bully sport and it's open fight;
It will keep you busy both day and night;
For the toughest kind of a game you'll find
Is to make your body obey your mind.
And you never will know what is meant by grit
Unless there's something you've tried to quit.

 

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The Few
Edgar Guest


The easy roads are crowded
And the level roads are jammed;
The pleasant little rivers
With the drifting folks are crammed.
But off yonder where it's rocky,
Where you get a better view,
You will find the ranks are thinning
And the travelers are few.

Where the going's smooth and pleasant
You will always find the throng,
For the many, more's the pity,
Seem to like to drift along.
But the steeps that call for courage,
And the task that's hard to do
In the end result in glory
For the never-wavering few.

 

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They Who Tread the Path of Labor
Henry Van Dyke (1852 - 1933)


THEY who tread the path of labor follow where My feet have trod;
They who work without complaining, do the holy will of God;
Nevermore thou needest seek Me; I am with thee everywhere;
Raise the stone, and thou shalt find Me, clease the wood and I am there.

Where the many toil together, there am I among My own;
Where the tired workman sleepeth, there am I with him alone:
I, the Peace that passeth knowledge, dwell amid the daily strife;
I, the Bread of Heav'n am broken in the sacrement of life.

Every task, however simple, sets the soul that does it free;
Every deed of love and mercy, done to man is done to Me.
Nevermore thou needest seek Me; I am with thee everywhere;
Raise the stone, and thou shalt find Me; cleave the wood, and I am there.

 

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Defeat
Edgar Guest


No one is beat till he quits,
No one is through till he stops,
No matter how hard Failure hits,
No matter how often he drops,
A fellow's not down till he lies
In the dust and refuses to rise.

Fate can slam him and bang him around,
And batter his frame till he's sore,
But she never can say that he's downed
While he bobs up serenely for more.
A fellow's not dead till he dies.

 

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To-Morrow
Edgar Guest


He was going to be all that a mortal should be
To-morrow.
No one should be kinder or braver than he
To-morrow.
A friend who was troubled and weary he knew,
Who'd be glad of a lift and who needed it, too;
On him he would call and see what he could do
To-morrow.

Each morning he stacked up the letters he'd write
To-morrow.
And thought of the folks he would fill with delight
To-morrow.
It was too bad, indeed, he was busy today,
And hadn't a minute to stop on his way;
More time he would have to give others, he'd say,
To-morrow.

The greatest of workers this man would have been
To-morrow.
The world would have known him, had he ever seen
To-morrow.
But the fact is he died and he faded from view,
And all that he left here when living was through
Was a mountain of things he intended to do
To-morrow.

 

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Results and Roses
by Edgar Guest


The man who wants a garden fair,
  Or small or very big,
With flowers growing here and there,
  Must bend his back and dig.

The things are mighty few on earth
  That wishes can attain.
Whate'er we want of any worth
  We've got to work to gain.

It matters not what goal you seek
  Its secret here reposes:
You've got to dig from week to week
  To get Results or Roses.

 

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How Do You Tackle Your Work?
by Edgar Guest


How do you tackle your work each day?
  Are you scared of the job you find?
Do you grapple the task that comes your way
  With a confident, easy mind?
Do you stand right up to the work ahead
  Or fearfully pause to view it?
Do you start to toil with a sense of dread
  Or feel that you're going to do it?

You can do as much as you think you can,
  But you'll never accomplish more;
If you're afraid of yourself, young man,
  There's little for you in store.
For failure comes from the inside first,
  It's there if we only knew it,
And you can win, though you face the worst,
  If you feel that you're going to do it.

Success!  It's found in the soul of you,
  And not in the realm of luck!
The world will furnish the work to do,
  But you must provide the pluck.
You can do whatever you think you can,
  It's all in the way you view it.
It's all in the start that you make, young man:
  You must feel that you're going to do it.

How do you tackle your work each day?
  With confidence clear, or dread?
What to yourself do you stop and say
  When a new task lies ahead?
What is the thought that is in your mind?
  Is fear ever running through it?
If so, just tackle the next you find
  By thinking you're going to do it.


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Success and Failure
by Edgar Guest


I do not think all failure's undeserved,
  And all success is merely someone's luck;
Some men are down because they were unnerved,
  And some are up because they kept their pluck.
Some men are down because they chose to shirk;
Some men are high because they did their work.

I do not think that all the poor are good,
  That riches are the uniform of shame;
The beggar might have conquered if he would,
  And that he begs, the world is not to blame.
Misfortune is not all that comes to mar;
Most men, themselves, have shaped the things they are.


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Duty
by Edgar Guest


To do your little bit of toil,
  To play life's game with head erect;
To stoop to nothing that would soil
  Your honor or your self-respect;
To win what gold and fame you can,
But first of all to be a man.

To know the bitter and the sweet,
  The sunshine and the days of rain;
To meet both victory and defeat,
  Nor boast too loudly nor complain;
To face whatever fates befall
And be a man throughout it all.

To seek success in honest strife,
  But not to value it so much
That, winning it, you go through life
  Stained by dishonor's scarlet touch.
What goal or dream you choose, pursue,
But be a man whate'er you do!

 

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Promotion
by Edgar Guest


Promotion comes to him who sticks
Unto his work and never kicks,
Who watches neither clock nor sun
To tell him when his task is done;
Who toils not by a stated chart,
Defining to a jot his part,
But gladly does a little more
Than he's remunerated for.
The man, in factory or shop,
Who rises quickly to the top,
Is he who gives what can't be bought:
Intelligent and careful thought.

No one can say just when begins
The service that promotion wins,
Or when it ends; 'tis not defined
By certain hours or any kind
Of system that has been devised;
Merit cannot be systemized.
It is at work when it's at play;
It serves each minute of the day;
'Tis always at its post, to see
New ways of help and use to be.
Merit from duty never slinks,
Its cardinal virtue is — it thinks!

Promotion comes to him who tries
Not solely for a selfish prize,
But day by day and year by year
Holds his employer's interests dear.
Who measures not by what he earns
The sum of labor he returns,
Nor counts his day of toiling through
Till he's done all that he can do.
His strength is not of muscle bred,
But of the heart and of the head.
The man who would the top attain
Must demonstrate he has a brain.

 

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Preparedness
by Edgar Guest


Right must not live in idleness,
  Nor dwell in smug content;
It must be strong, against the throng
  Of foes, on evil bent.

Justice must not a weakling be
  But it must guard its own,
And live each day, that none can say
  Justice is overthrown.

Peace, the sweet glory of the world,
  Faces a duty, too;
Death is her fate, leaves she one gate
  For war to enter through.


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Purpose
by Edgar Guest


Not for the sake of the gold,
  Not for the sake of the fame,
Not for the prize would I hold
  Any ambition or aim:
I would be brave and be true
Just for the good I can do.

I would be useful on earth,
  Serving some purpose or cause,
Doing some labor of worth,
  Giving no thought to applause.
Thinking less of the gold or the fame
Than the joy and the thrill of the game.

Medals their brightness may lose,
  Fame be forgotten or fade,
Any reward we may choose
  Leaves the account still unpaid.
But little real happiness lies
In fighting alone for a prize.

Give me the thrill of the task,
  The joy of the battle and strife,
Of being of use, and I'll ask
  No greater reward from this life.
Better than fame or applause
Is striving to further a cause.

 

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Opportunity
Edward Rowland Sill (1841 - 1887)

THIS I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream: —
There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;
And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged
A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords
Shocked upon swords and shields.  A prince's banner
Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes.
A craven hung along the battle's edge,
And thought, "Had I a sword of keener steel —
That blue blade that the king's son bears, — but this
Blunt thing — !" he snapt and flung it from his hand,
And lowering crept away and left the field.
Then came the king's son, wounded, sore bestead,
And weaponless, and saw the broken sword,
Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,
And ran and snatched it, and with battle-shout
Lifted afresh he hewed his enemy down,
And saved a great cause that heroic day.

 

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Greatness
Edgar Guest


We can be great by helping one another;
  We can be loved for very simple deeds;
Who has the grateful mention of a brother
  Has really all the honor that he needs.

We can be famous for our works of kindness —
  Fame is not born alone of strength or skill;
It sometimes comes from deafness and from blindness
  To petty words and faults, and loving still.

We can be rich in gentle smiles and sunny:
  A jeweled soul exceeds a royal crown.
The richest men sometimes have little money,
  And Croesus oft's the poorest man in town.

 

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Be A Friend
Edgar Guest


Be a friend.  You don't need money;
Just a disposition sunny;
Just the wish to help another
Get along some way or other;
Just a kindly hand extended
Out to one who's unbefriended;
Just the will to give or lend,
This will make you someone's friend.

Be a friend.  You don't need glory.
Friendship is a simple story.
Pass by trifling errors blindly,
Gaze on honest effort kindly,
Cheer the youth who's bravely trying,
Pity him who's sadly sighing;
Just a little labor spend
On the duties of a friend.

Be a friend.  The pay is bigger
(Though not written by a figure)
Than is earned by people clever
In what's merely self-endeavor.
You'll have friends instead of neighbors
For the profits of your labors;
You'll be richer in the end
Than a prince, if you're a friend.

 

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The Miller of the Dee
by Charles Mackay


There dwelt a miller hale and bold
 Beside the river Dee;
He worked and sang from morn till night,
  No lark more blithe than he;
And this the burden of his song
  Forever used to be, —
"I envy nobody; no, not I,
  And nobody envies me!"

"Thou'rt wrong, my friend!" said good King Hal;
  "Thou'rt wrong as wrong can be;
For could my heart be light as thine,
  I'd gladly change with thee.
And tell me now, what makes thee sing,
  With voice so loud and free,
While I am sad, though I'm the king,
  Beside the river Dee."

The miller smiled and doffed his cap:
  "I earn my bread," quoth he;
"I love my wife, I love my friend,
  I love my children three;
I owe no penny I cannot pay;
  I thank the river Dee,
That turns the mill that grinds the corn,
  To feed my babes and me."

"Good friend," said Hal, and sighed the while,
  "Farewell! and happy be;
But say no more, if thou'dst be true,
  That no one envies thee.
Thy mealy cap is worth my crown,
  Thy mill my kingdom's fee;
Such men as thou are England's boast,
  Oh miller of the Dee!"

 

Definitions:
Hale, hearty, strong.
Blithe, happy.
Quoth, said.
Fee, wealth, possession.

 

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The Quitter
Edgar A. Guest

Fate handed the quitter a bump, and he dropped;
The road seemed too rough to go, so he stopped.
He thought of his hurt, and there came to his mind
The easier path he was leaving behind.
Oh, it's all much too hard, said the quitter right then;
I'll stop where I am and not try it again.
He sat by the road and he made up his tale
To tell when men asked why he happened to fail.
A thousand excuses flew up to his tongue,
And these on the thread of his story he strung,
But the truth of the matter he didn't admit;
He never once said, I was frightened and quit.
Whenever the quitter sits down by the road
And drops from the struggle to lighten his load,
He can always recall to his own peace of mind
A string of excuses for falling behind;
But somehow or other he can't think of one
Good reason for battling and going right on.
Oh, when the bump comes and fate hands you a jar,
Don't baby yourself, boy, whoever you are;
Don't pity yourself and talk over your woes;
Don't think up excuses for dodging the blows.
But stick to the battle and see the thing through.
And don't be a quitter, whatever you do.

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