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Poems About Courage

Table of Contents

  1. How the Little Kite Learned to Fly by Anonymous
  2. Brave Hearts by Charles Swain
  3. Arnold von Winkleried by James Montgomery
  4. Marco Bozzaris by Fitz-Greene Halleck
  5. Courage by Claude McKay
  6. Courage by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  7. Peace by Bliss Carman
  8. Courage by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
  9. To a Young Man by Edgar A. Guest
  10. Dare to Say No by Anonymous
  11. Courage Forever by John Bodwell Wood
  12. The Swedish Wife by Henrietta Gould Rowe
  13. Memorial Day by Annette Wynne

  1. How the Little Kite Learned to Fly

    "How happy I am!" the little kite cried,
    "And all because I was brave, and tried."

    - Anonymous
    How the Little Kite Learned to Fly
    by Anonymous

    "I never can do it," the little kite said,
    As he looked at the others high over his head;
    "I know I should fall if I tried to fly."
    "Try," said the big kite; "only try!
    Or I fear you never will learn at all."
    But the little kite said, "I'm afraid I'll fall."

    The big kite nodded: "Ah well, goodby;
    I'm off;" and he rose toward the tranquil sky.
    Then the little kite's paper stirred at the sight,
    And trembling he shook himself free for flight.
    First whirling and frightened, then braver grown,
    Up, up he rose through the air alone,
    Till the big kite looking down could see
    The little one rising steadily.

    Then how the little kite thrilled with pride,
    As he sailed with the big kite side by side!
    While far below he could see the ground,
    And the boys like small spots moving round.
    They rested high in the quiet air,
    And only the birds and the clouds were there.
    "Oh, how happy I am!" the little kite cried,
    "And all because I was brave, and tried."

  2. Brave Hearts

    Brave hearts bend not so soon to care—

    - Charles Swain
    Brave Hearts
    by Charles Swain

    Brave hearts bend not so soon to care—
    Firm minds uplift the load of fate;
    They bear what others shrink to bear,
    And boldly any doom await!
    They rise above what would oppress
    A weaker spirit to the ground;
    And, though they feel no jot the less,
    Their sorrows scorn to breathe a sound.

    Oh! heroes have we still on earth,
    Worth all the boasted blood of Rome;
    And heroines, whose suffering worth
    Lends grace to many a humble home.
    Great hearts endurance cannot bend;
    Nor daily care, nor trial, tame;
    But these nor ask, nor gain, a friend—
    Nor seek, nor ever find, a name!

  3. Arnold von Winkleried

    Winkelried at Sempach
    Winkelried at Sempach
    by Konrad Grob
    by James Montgomery

    "Make way for liberty!" he cried,
    Make way for liberty, and died.
    In arms the Austrian phalanx stood,
    A living wall, a human wood,—
    A wall, where every conscious stone
    Seemed to its kindred thousands grown.
    A rampart all assaults to bear,
    Till time to dust their frames should wear;
    So still, so dense the Austrians stood,
    A living wall, a human wood.

    Impregnable their front appears,
    All horrent with projected spears.
    Whose polished points before them shine,
    From flank to flank, one brilliant line,
    Bright as the breakers' splendours run
    Along the billows to the sun.

    Opposed to these a hovering band
    Contended for their fatherland;
    Peasants, whose new-found strength had broke
    From manly necks the ignoble yoke,
    And beat their fetters into swords,
    On equal terms to fight their lords;
    And what insurgent rage had gained,
    In many a mortal fray maintained;
    Marshalled, once more, at Freedom's call,
    They came to conquer or to fall,
    Where he who conquered, he who fell,
    Was deemed a dead or living Tell,
    Such virtue had that patriot breathed,
    So to the soil his soul bequeathed,
    That wheresoe'er his arrows flew,
    Heroes in his own likeness grew,
    And warriors sprang from every sod,
    Which his awakening footstep trod.

    And now the work of life and death
    Hung on the passing of a breath;
    The fire of conflict burned within,
    The battle trembled to begin;
    Yet, while the Austrians held their ground,
    Point for attack was nowhere found;
    Where'er the impatient Switzers gazed,
    The unbroken line of lances blazed;
    That line 'twere suicide to meet,
    And perish at their tyrant's feet;
    How could they rest within their graves,
    And leave their homes, the homes of slaves!
    Would not they feel their children tread,
    With clanging chains, above their head?

    It must not be; this day, this hour,
    Annihilates the invader's power;
    All Switzerland is in the field;
    She will not fly,—she cannot yield,—
    She must not fall; her better fate
    Here gives her an immortal date.
    Few were the numbers she could boast,
    But every freeman was a host,
    And felt as 'twere a secret known
    That one should turn the scale alone,
    While each unto himself was he
    On whose sole arm hung victory.

    It did depend on one indeed;
    Behold him,—Arnold Winkelried;
    There sounds not to the trump of fame
    The echo of a nobler name.
    Unmarked he stood amid the throng,
    In rumination deep and long,
    Till you might see, with sudden grace,
    The very thought come o'er his face;
    And, by the motion of his form,
    Anticipate the bursting storm,
    And, by the uplifting of his brow,
    Tell where the bolt would strike, and how.

    But 'twas no sooner thought than done!
    The field was in a moment won;
    "Make way for liberty!" he cried,
    Then ran, with arms extended wide,
    As if his dearest friend to clasp;
    Ten spears he swept within his grasp.
    "Make way for liberty!" he cried.
    Their keen points crossed from side to side;
    He bowed amidst them like a tree,
    And thus made way for liberty.

    Swift to the breach his comrades fly,
    "Make way for liberty!" they cry,
    And through the Austrian phalanx dart,
    As rushed the spears through Arnold's heart.
    While instantaneous as his fall,
    Rout, ruin, panic, seized them all;
    An earthquake could not overthrow
    A city with a surer blow.

    Thus Switzerland again was free;
    Thus Death made way for Liberty!

  4. Marco Bozzaris

    by Fitz-Greene Halleck. Note: Marco Bozzaris (b. about 1790, d. 1823) was a famous Greek patriot. His family were Suliotes, a people inhabiting the Suli Mountains, and bitter enemies of the Turks. Bozzaris was engaged in war against the latter nearly all his life, and finally fell in a night attack upon their camp near Carpenisi. This poem, a fitting tribute to his memory, has been translated into modern Greek.

    At midnight, in his guarded tent,
    The Turk was dreaming of the hour
    When Greece, her knee in suppliance bent,
    Should tremble at his power.
    In dreams, through camp and court he bore
    The trophies of a conqueror;
    In dreams, his song of triumph heard;
    Then wore his monarch's signet ring;
    Then pressed that monarch's throne—a king:
    As wild his thoughts, and gay of wing,
    As Eden's garden bird.

    At midnight, in the forest shades,
    Bozzaris ranged his Suliote band,
    True as the steel of their tried blades,
    Heroes in heart and hand.
    There had the Persian's thousands stood,
    There had the glad earth drunk their blood,
    On old Plataea's day:
    And now there breathed that haunted air,
    The sons of sires who conquered there,
    With arms to strike, and soul to dare,
    As quick, as far as they.

    An hour passed on—the Turk awoke;
    That bright dream was his last:
    He woke—to hear his sentries shriek,
    "To arms! they come! the Greek! the Greek!"
    He woke—to die mid flame and smoke,
    And shout, and groan, and saber stroke,
    And death shots falling thick and fast
    As lightnings from the mountain cloud;
    And heard, with voice as trumpet loud,
    Bozzaris cheer his band:
    "Strike—till the last armed foe expires;
    Strike—for your altars and your fires;
    Strike—for the green graves of your sires;
    God—and your native land!"

    They fought—like brave men, long and well;
    They piled that ground with Moslem slain;
    They conquered—but Bozzaris fell,
    Bleeding at every vein.
    His few surviving comrades saw
    His smile, when rang their proud hurrah,
    And the red field was won:
    Then saw in death his eyelids close
    Calmly, as to a night's repose,
    Like flowers at set of sun.

    Come to the bridal chamber, Death!
    Come to the mother, when she feels
    For the first time her firstborn's breath;
    Come when the blessed seals
    That close the pestilence are broke,
    And crowded cities wail its stroke;
    Come in consumption's ghastly form,
    The earthquake's shock, the ocean storm;
    Come when the heart beats high and warm
    With banquet song, and dance, and wine:
    And thou art terrible—the tear,
    The groan, the knell, the pall, the bier,
    And all we know, or dream, or fear
    Of agony, are thine.
    But to the hero, when his sword
    Has won the battle for the free,
    Thy voice sounds like a prophet's word;
    And in its hollow tones are heard
    The thanks of millions yet to be.

    Bozzaris! with the storied brave
    Greece nurtured in her glory's time,
    Rest thee—there is no prouder grave
    Even in her own proud clime.
    We tell thy doom without a sigh,
    For thou art Freedom's, now, and Fame's.
    One of the few, the immortal names,
    That were not born to die.

  5. Courage

    by Claude McKay

    O lonely heart so timid of approach,
    Like the shy tropic flower that shuts its lips
    To the faint touch of tender finger tips:
    What is your word? What question would you broach?

    Your lustrous-warm eyes are too sadly kind
    To mask the meaning of your dreamy tale,
    Your guarded life too exquisitely frail
    Against the daggers of my warring mind.

    There is no part of the unyielding earth,
    Even bare rocks where the eagles build their nest,
    Will give us undisturbed and friendly rest.
    No dewfall softens this vast belt of dearth.

    But in the socket-chiseled teeth of strife,
    That gleam in serried files in all the lands,
    We may join hungry, understanding hands,
    And drink our share of ardent love and life.

  6. Courage

    by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    Carelessly over the plain away,
    Where by the boldest man no path
    Cut before thee thou canst discern,
    Make for thyself a path!

    Silence, loved one, my heart!
    Cracking, let it not break!
    Breaking, break not with thee!

  7. Peace

    by Bliss Carman

    The sleeping tarn is dark
    Below the wooded hill.
    Save for its homing sounds,
    The twilit world grows still.

    And I am left to muse
    In grave-eyed mystery,
    And watch the stars come out
    As sandalled dusk goes by.

    And now the light is gone,
    The drowsy murmurs cease,
    And through the still unknown
    I wonder whence comes peace.

    Then softly falls the word
    Of one beyond a name,
    "Peace only comes to him
    Who guards his life from shame, —

    "Who gives his heart to love,
    And holding truth for guide,
    Girds him with fearless strength,
    That freedom may abide."

  8. How Did You Die?

    by Edmund Vance Cooke

    Did you tackle 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?
    Oh, a trouble's a ton, or a trouble's an ounce,
    Or a trouble is what you make it,
    And it isn't the fact that you're hurt that counts,
    But only how did you take it?

    You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what's that!
    Come up with a smiling face.
    It's nothing against you to fall down flat,
    But to lie there—that's disgrace.
    The harder you're thrown, why the higher you bounce
    Be proud of your blackened eye!
    It isn't the fact that you're licked that counts;
    It's how did you fight and why?

    And though you be done to the death, what then?
    If you battled the best you could,
    If you played your part in the world of men,
    Why, the Critic will call it good.
    Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
    And whether he's slow or spry,
    It isn't the fact that you're dead that counts,
    But only, how did you die?

  9. Courage

    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

    There is a courage, a majestic thing
    That springs forth from the brow of pain, full-grown,
    Minerva-like, and dares all dangers known,
    And all the threatening future yet may bring;
    Crowned with the helmet of great suffering,
    Serene with that grand strength by martyrs shown,
    When at the stake they die and make no moan,
    And even as the flames leap up are heard to sing.

    A courage so sublime and unafraid,
    It wears its sorrows like a coat of mail;
    And fate, the archer, passes by dismayed,
    Knowing his best barbed arrows needs must fail
    To pierce a soul so armored and arrayed
    That death himself might look on it and quail.

  10. To a Young Man

    by Edgar A. Guest

    The great were once as you.
    They whom men magnify to-day
    Once groped and blundered on life's way,
    Were fearful of themselves, and thought
    By magic was men's greatness wrought.
    They feared to try what they could do;
    Yet Fame hath crowned with her success
    The selfsame gifts that you possess.

    The great were young as you,
    Dreaming the very dreams you hold,
    Longing yet fearing to be bold,
    Doubting that they themselves possessed
    The strength and skill for every test,
    Uncertain of the truths they knew,
    Not sure that they could stand to fate
    With all the courage of the great.

    Then came a day when they
    Their first bold venture made,
    Scorning to cry for aid.
    They dared to stand to fight alone,
    Took up the gauntlet life had thrown,
    Charged full-front to the fray,
    Mastered their fear of self, and then,
    Learned that our great men are but men.

  11. Dare to Say No

    by Anonymous

    Dear children, you are sometimes led
    To sorrow, sin, and woe,
    Because you have not courage quite,
    And dare not answer, No.

    When playmates tell you this, or that
    Is “very nice to do,”
    See first what mamma says, or if
    You think ’tis wrong, say No.

    Be always gentle, but be firm,
    And wheresoe’er you go,
    If you are asked to do what’s wrong,
    Don’t fear to answer, No.

    False friends may laugh and sneer at you,
    Temptations round you flow,
    But prove yourself both brave and true,
    And firmly tell them, No.

    Sometimes a thing that’s not a sin,
    You might be asked to do,—
    But when you think it is not best,
    Don’t yield, but answer, No.

    True friends will honor you the more,
    Ah, yes, and false ones too,
    When they have learned you’re not afraid
    To stand and answer, No.

    And when temptations rise within,
    And plead to “come,” or “go,”
    And do a wrong for “just this once
    Be sure you answer, No.

    For when you once have done a Wrong,
    The Right receives a blow,—
    And Wrong will triumph easier now,
    So haste and answer, No.

    There’s many a little boy and girl,
    And man and woman too,
    Have gone to ruin and to death
    For want of saying, No!

    So, young or old, or great or small,
    Don’t fail, whate’er you do,
    To stand for Right and nobly dare
    To speak an honest No.

  12. Courage Forever

    by John Bodwell Wood

    What we do, let's do with boldness;
    What we know, let's speak for aye!
    And respect naught for its oldness
    If it be not right to-day.

    What is right, with will is power;
    Truth is truth, and must prevail;
    And true courage for an hour
    Often is of great avail.

    Naught is gained by coward groaning
    Under each mishap and ill;
    Give us men not always moaning—
    Men of nerve and iron will.

    Firmly stand to Freedom's calling,
    Battling to defend the right—
    Fainting not though scenes appalling
    Startle others timid sight.

  13. The Swedish Wife

    by Henrietta Gould Rowe. In the State House at Augusta, Me., is a bunch of cedar shingles made by a Swedish woman the wife of one of the earliest settlers of New Sweden, who, with her husband sick and a family of little ones dependent upon her, made with her own hands these shingles, and carried them eight miles upon her back to the town of Caribou, where she exchanged them for provisions for her family.

    The morning sun shines bright and clear,
    Clear and cold, for winter is near,—
    Winter, the chill and dread:
    And the fire burns bright in the exile's home,
    With fagot of fir from the mountain's dome,
    While the children clamor for bread.

    Against the wall stands the idle wheel,
    Unfinished the thread upon the spindle and reel,
    The empty cards are crost;
    But nigh to the hearthstone sits the wife,
    With cleaver and mallet,—so brave and so blithe,
    She fears not famine or frost.

    Fair and soft are her braided locks,
    And the light in her blue eye merrily mocks
    The shadow of want and fear,
    As deftly, with fingers supple and strong,
    She draws the glittering shave along,
    O'er the slab of cedar near.

    Neatly and close are the shingles laid,
    Bound in a bunch,—then, undismayed,
    The Swedish wife uprose:
    "Be patient, my darlings," she blithely said,
    "I go to the town, and you shall have bread,
    Ere the day has reached its close."

    Eight miles she trudged—'twas a weary way;
    The road was rough, the sky grew gray
    With the snow that sifted down;
    Bent were her shoulders beneath their load,
    But high was her heart, for love was the goad
    That urged her on to the town.

    Ere the sun went down was her promise kept,
    The little ones feasted before they slept;
    While the father, sick in bed,
    Prayed softly, with tears and murmurs low,
    That his household darlings might never know
    A lack of their daily bread.

  14. Memorial Day

    by Annette Wynne

    Is it enough to think to-day
    Of all our brave, then put away
    The thought until a year has sped?
    Is this full honor for our dead?

    Is it enough to sing a song
    And deck a grave; and all year long
    Forget the brave who died that we
    Might keep our great land proud and free?

    Full service needs a greater toll—
    That we who live give heart and soul
    To keep the land they died to save,
    And be ourselves, in turn, the brave!