If...
Rudyard Kipling

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 wornout 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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Proverbs, chapter 2
by Solomon


My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding,

and if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,

and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,

then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.

For the LORD gives wisdom,
and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

He holds victory in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,

for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.

For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.

Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
from men whose words are perverse,

who leave the straight paths
to walk in dark ways,

who delight in doing wrong
and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,

whose paths are crooked
and who are devious in their ways.

It will save you also from the adulteress,
from the wayward wife with her seductive words,

who has left the partner of her youth
and ignored the covenant she made before God. [a]

For her house leads down to death
and her paths to the spirits of the dead.

None who go to her return
or attain the paths of life.

Thus you will walk in the ways of good men
and keep to the paths of the righteous.

For the upright will live in the land,
and the blameless will remain in it;

but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
and the unfaithful will be torn from it.
The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

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.
This. It's been too long since I last read this. Fifteen years? At least. And now, again, as relevant now as it was then. Thank you.

Or, should I have to chose something else, let me quote some few but very wise words from this very site: "Good is good even if no one is doing it. Bad is bad even if everyone is doing it."

Yep, this too is my favorite poem.  Robert Frost had a way to "turn a phrase".

 

Not a poem, but a prayer by Sir Francis Drake:

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
Someone (i.e., the people who paid to build it in the first place) should put this on the back of Prayer Book Cross.
This is my new favorite prayer (tied with the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi).
Ulysses by Alfred Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honor'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: But every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bounds of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachos,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle-
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port, the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have tol'd and wrought, and thought with me-
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads - you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved heaven and earth; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Psalm CXXXVII The Babylonian Captivity by Joel Barlow

ALONG the banks where Babel's current flows
Our captive bands in deep despondence stray'd,
While Zion's fall in sad remembrance rose,
Her friends, her children mingled with the dead.

The tuneless harp, that once with joy we strung,
When praise employ'd and mirth inspir'd the lay,
In mournful silence on the willows hung;
And growing grief prolong'd the tedious day.

The barbarous tyrants, to increase the woe,
With taunting smiles a song of Zion claim;
Bid sacred praise in strains melodious flow,
While they blaspheme the great Jehovah's name.

But how, in heathen chains and lands unknown,
Shall Israel's sons a song of Zion raise?
O hapless Salem, God's terrestrial throne,
Thou land of glory, sacred mount of praise.

If e'er my memory lose thy lovely name,
If my cold heart neglect my kindred race,
Let dire destruction seize this guilty frame;
My hand shall perish and my voice shall cease.

Yet shall the Lord, who hears when Zion calls,
O'ertake her foes with terror and dismay,
His arm avenge her desolated walls,
And raise her children to eternal day.
As I Ponder’d in Silence. by Walt Whitman

AS I ponder’d in silence,
Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering long,
A Phantom arose before me, with distrustful aspect,
Terrible in beauty, age, and power,
The genius of poets of old lands,
As to me directing like flame its eyes,
With finger pointing to many immortal songs,
And menacing voice, What singest thou? it said;
Know’st thou not, there is but one theme for ever-enduring bards?
And that is the theme of War, the fortune of battles,
The making of perfect soldiers?

Be it so, then I answer’d,
I too, haughty Shade, also sing war—and a longer and greater one than
any,
Waged in my book with varying fortune—with flight, advance, and
retreat—Victory deferr’d and wavering,
(Yet, methinks, certain, or as good as certain, at the last,)—The
field the world;
For life and death—for the Body, and for the eternal Soul,
Lo! too am come, chanting the chant of battles,
I, above all, promote brave soldiers.
"The Tongue"
(Author Unknown)

The boneless tongue so small and weak,
Can crush and kill declared the Greek.

The tongue destroys a greater horde
the Turk asserts, than does the sword.

The Persian proverb wisely saith
A lengthy tongue - an early death.

Or sometimes takes this form instead,
Don't let your tongue cut off your head.

The tongue can speak a word whose speed
The Arab says outstrips the steed.

While Chinese sages thus impart
The tongue's great storehouse is the heart.

From Hebrew wit the maxim's sprung,
Tho' foot may slip ne'er let the tongue.

The sacred writer crowns the whole,
Who keeps his tongue doth keep his soul.
Invictus by William Ernest Henley

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.

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