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Poems About Hard Work

Table of Contents

  1. Ten True Friends by Anonymous
  2. The Village Blacksmith by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  3. The Heritage by James Russell Lowell
  4. The Thumb by Anonymous
  5. Morning by Jane Taylor
  6. A Good Sleep by Anonymous
  7. The Song of the Bee by Marian Douglas
  8. The Blacksmith by Anonymous
  9. On the bleakness of my lot by Emily Dickinson
  10. Work by Eliza Cook
  11. Little by Little by Anonymous
  1. The Seedling by Laurence Dunbar
  2. Joy and Labor by William Francis Barnard
  3. Ease by Raymond Garfield Dandridge
  4. A Sailor Ballad by Ruby Archer
  5. The Grasshoper and the Ant by Hannah Flagg Gould
  6. Be Strong by Maltbie Davenport Babcock
  7. "How Doth the Little Busy Bee" by Isaac Watts
  8. The Butterfly and the Bee by William Lisle Bowles
  9. The Cheery Chewink by Anonymous


What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.

– Thomas Paine
The Crisis
Read aloud to Washington's Continental Army on Dec 23, 1776
  1. Ten True Friends

    by Anonymous

    Ten true friends you have,
    Who, five in a row,
    Upon each side of you
    Go where you go.

    Suppose you are sleepy,
    They help you to bed;
    Suppose you are hungry,
    They see that you are fed.

    They wake up your dolly
    And put on your clothes,
    And trundle her carriage
    Wherever she goes.

    And these ten tiny fellows,
    They serve you with ease;
    And they ask nothing from you,
    But work hard to please.

    Now, with ten willing servants
    So trusty and true,
    Pray who would be lazy
    Or idle—would you?

  2. The Village Blacksmith

    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.

    – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    The Village Blacksmith
    by 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 thought.

  3. The Heritage

    Toil only gives the soul to shine,

    – James Russell Lowell
    The Heritage
    by James Russell Lowell

    The rich man's son inherits lands,
    And piles of brick, and stone, and gold,
    And he inherits soft white hands,
    And tender flesh that fears the cold,
    Nor dares to wear a garment old;
    A heritage, it seems to me,
    One scarce would wish to hold in fee.

    The rich man's son inherits cares;
    The bank may break, the factory burn,
    A breath may burst his bubble shares,
    And soft white hands could hardly earn
    A living that would serve his turn;
    A heritage, it seems to me,
    One scarce would wish to hold in fee.

    The rich man's son inherits wants,
    His stomach craves for dainty fare;
    With sated heart, he hears the pants
    Of toiling hinds with brown arms bare!
    And wearies in his easy-chair;
    A heritage, it seems to me,
    One scarce would wish to hold in fee.

    What doth the poor man's son inherit?
    Stout muscles and a sinewy heart,
    A hardy frame, a hardier spirit;
    King of two hands, he does his part
    In every useful toil and art;
    A heritage, it seems to me,
    A king might wish to hold in fee.

    What doth the poor man's son inherit?
    Wishes o'erjoyed with humble things,
    A rank adjudged by toil-won merit,
    Content that from employment springs,
    A heart that in his labor sings;
    A heritage, it seems to me,
    A king might wish to hold in fee.

    What doth the poor man's son inherit?
    A patience learned of being poor,
    Courage, if sorrow come, to bear it,
    A fellow-feeling that is sure
    To make the outcast bless his door;
    A heritage, it seems to me,
    A king might wish to hold in fee.

    O rich man's son! there is a toil
    That with all others level stands:
    Large charity doth never soil,
    But only whiten soft, white hands,—
    This is the best crop from thy lands;
    A heritage, it seems to me,
    Worth being rich to hold in fee.

    O poor man's son! scorn not thy state;
    There is worse weariness than thine
    In merely being rich and great:
    Toil only gives the soul to shine,
    And makes rest fragrant and benign;
    A heritage, it seems to me,
    Worth being poor to hold in fee.

    Both, heirs to some six feet of sod,
    Are equal in the earth at last;
    Both, children of the same dear God,
    Prove title to your heirship vast
    By record of a well-filled past;
    A heritage, it seems to me,
    Well worth a life to hold in fee.

  4. The Thumb

    And hail to the men who are like the thumb;
    Men who are laboring, modestly dumb,
    Faithfully doing the work that is hard

    – Anonymous
    The Thumb
    by Anonymous

    Hail to the thumb, the useful thumb,
    The grasper, the holder, the doer of deeds,
    Where fingers are futile and tools succumb,
    Stolid, ungainly, the thumb succeeds.

    Hail to the thumb the homely thumb;
    Rings and jewels are not for it,
    Compliments, dainty and frolicsome,
    For fingers are suited, for thumbs unfit

    Hail to the thumb, the modest thumb;
    Gently und calmly it hides away,
    Never for it a banner and drum,
    Or praise at the end of a strenuous day.

    And hail to the men who are like the thumb;
    Men who are never sung by a bard,
    Men who are laboring, modestly dumb,
    Faithfully doing the work that is hard

    Some day, men of the toiling thumb,
    Men of the modest, invincible worth,
    Some day your high reward will come
    From the Hand of the Lord of heaven and earth!

  5. Morning

    by Jane Taylor

    The lark is up to meet the sun,
    The bee is on the wing,
    The ant her labor has begun,
    The woods with music ring.

    Shall birds and bees and ants be wise,
    While I my moments waste?
    Oh, let me with the morning rise,
    And to my duties haste.

    Why should I sleep till beams of morn
    Their light and glory shed?
    Immortal beings were not born
    To waste their time in bed.

  6. A Good Sleep

    But fill the day with labor, Ned.
    And work with all your might,
    For that will fill the hardest bed
    With softest down, at night.

    – Anonymous
    A Good Sleep
    by Anonymous

    You do not need a bed of down
    To give you sleep at night.
    A counterpane of pink and brown
    And pillow soft and white

    You do not need a pretty room
    All dressed in dainty blue.
    Where soundest slumber-health may come,
    With pleasant dreams, to you.

    But fill the day with labor, Ned.
    And work with all your might,
    For that will fill the hardest bed
    With softest down, at night.

    And if you want a counterpane
    With many colors gay.
    Not only work with might and main,
    But—add a bit of play!

  7. The Song of the Bee

    Buzz! buzz! buzz!
    From morning's first light
    Till the coming of night,
    He's singing and toiling
    The summer day through.
    Oh! we may get weary,
    And think work is dreary;
    'Tis harder by far
    To have nothing to do.

    – Marian Douglas
    The Song of the Bee
    by Marian Douglas

    Buzz! buzz! buzz!
    This is the song of the bee.
    His legs are of yellow;
    A jolly, good fellow,
    And yet a great worker is he.

    In days that are sunny
    He's getting his honey;
    In days that are cloudy
    He's making his wax:
    On pinks and on lilies,
    And gay daffodillies,
    And columbine blossoms,
    He levies a tax!

    Buzz! buzz! buzz!
    The sweet-smelling clover,
    He, humming, hangs over;
    The scent of the roses
    Makes fragrant his wings:
    He never gets lazy;
    From thistle and daisy,
    And weeds of the meadow,
    Some treasure he brings.

    Buzz! buzz! buzz!
    From morning's first light
    Till the coming of night,
    He's singing and toiling
    The summer day through.
    Oh! we may get weary,
    And think work is dreary;
    'Tis harder by far
    To have nothing to do.

  8. The Blacksmith

    by Anonymous

    Clink, clink, clinkerty clink!
    We begin to hammer at morning's blink,
    And hammer away
    Till the busy day,
    Like us, aweary, to rest shall sink.

    Clink, clink, clinkerty clink!
    From labor and care we never will shrink;
    But our fires we'll blow
    Till our forges glow
    With light intense, while our eyelids wink.

    Clink, clink, clinkerty clink;
    The chain we'll forge with many a link.
    We'll work each form
    While the iron is warm,
    With strokes as fast as we can think.

    Clink, clink, clinkerty clink!
    Our faces may be as black as ink,
    But our hearts are true
    As man ever knew,
    And kindly of all we shall ever think.

  9. On the bleakness of my lot

    Soil of flint if steadfast tilled
    Will reward the hand;

    – Emily Dickinson
    On the bleakness of my lot
    by Emily Dickinson

    On the bleakness of my lot
    Bloom I strove to raise.
    Late, my acre of a rock
    Yielded grape and maize.

    Soil of flint if steadfast tilled
    Will reward the hand;
    Seed of palm by Lybian sun
    Fructified in sand.

  10. Work

    And man is never half so blest
    As when the busy day is spent
    So as to make his evening rest
    A holiday of glad content.

    – Eliza Cook
    Work
    by Eliza Cook

    Work, work, my boy, be not afraid;
    Look labor boldly in the face;
    Take up the hammer or the spade,
    And blush not for your humble place.

    There's glory in the shuttle's song;
    There's triumph in the anvil's stroke;
    There's merit in the brave and strong
    Who dig the mine or fell the oak.

    The wind disturbs the sleeping lake,
    And bids it ripple pure and fresh;
    It moves the green boughs till they make
    Grand music in their leafy mesh.

    And so the active breath of life
    Should stir our dull and sluggard wills;
    For are we not created rife
    With health, that stagnant torpor kills?

    I doubt if he who lolls his head
    Where idleness and plenty meet,
    Enjoys his pillow or his bread
    As those who earn the meals they eat.

    And man is never half so blest
    As when the busy day is spent
    So as to make his evening rest
    A holiday of glad content.

  11. Little by Little

    And still this rule in my mind shall dwell,
    Whatever I do, I will do it well...
    And do you not think that this simple plan
    Made him a wise and useful man?

    – Anonymous
    Little by Little
    by Anonymous

    “Little by little,” an acorn said,
    As it slowly sank in its mossy bed,
    “I am improving every day,
    Hidden deep in the earth away.”

    Little by little, each day it grew;
    Little by little, it sipped the dew;
    Downward it sent out a thread-like root;
    Up in the air sprung a tiny shoot.

    Day after day, and year after year,
    Little by little the leaves appear;
    And the slender branches spread far and wide,
    Till the mighty oak is the forest’s pride.

    Far down in the depths of the dark blue sea,
    An insect train work ceaselessly.
    Grain by grain, they are building well,
    Each one alone in its little cell.

    Moment by moment, and day by day,
    Never stopping to rest or to play,
    Rocks upon rocks, they are rearing high,
    Till the top looks out on the sunny sky.

    The gentle wind and the balmy air,
    Little by little, bring verdure there;
    Till the summer sunbeams gayly smile
    On the buds and the flowers of the coral isle.

    “Little by little,” said a thoughtful boy,
    “Moment by moment, I’ll well employ,
    Learning a little every day,
    And not spending all my time in play.
    And still this rule in my mind shall dwell,
    Whatever I do, I will do it well.

    “Little by little, I’ll learn to know
    The treasured wisdom of long ago;
    And one of these days, perhaps, we’ll see
    That the world will be the better for me.”
    And do you not think that this simple plan
    Made him a wise and useful man?

  12. The Seedling

    Little folks, be like the seedling,
    Always do the best you can;
    Every child must share life's labor
    Just as well as every man.

    – Laurence Dunbar
    The Seedling
    by Laurence Dunbar

    As a quiet little seedling
    Lay within its darksome bed,
    To itself it fell a-talking,
    And this is what it said:

    "I am not so very robust,
    But I'll do the best I can;"
    And the seedling from that moment
    Its work of life began.

    So it pushed a little leaflet
    Up into the light of day,
    To examine the surroundings
    And show the rest the way.

    The leaflet liked the prospect,
    So it called its brother, Stem;
    Then two other leaflets heard it,
    And quickly followed them.

    To be sure, the haste and hurry
    Made the seedling sweat and pant;
    But almost before it knew it
    It found itself a plant.

    The sunshine poured upon it,
    And the clouds they gave a shower;
    And the little plant kept growing
    Till it found itself a flower.

    Little folks, be like the seedling,
    Always do the best you can;
    Every child must share life's labor
    Just as well as every man.

    And the sun and showers will help you
    Through the lonesome, struggling hours,
    Till you raise to light and beauty
    Virtue's fair, unfading flowers.

  13. Joy and Labor

    by William Francis Barnard

    The joy of labor, and the joy of song,
    Delight of pleasure, and delight of rest,
    And happy peace, the heart's full welcome guest,
    All these are one, like friends in gladsome throng.
    Nay, toiling brain and hands with sinews strong,
    Hot sweating brows, and heavy heaving breast,
    'Tis unto work that nature yields her best;
    Why do you, then, cry out upon a wrong?

    An answer comes from countless sons of toil,
    Borne as on mighty winds from everywhere,
    "Yes, work were sweet, if we might glean the soil,
    And own the things we fashion with our care;
    But masters take our substance for their spoil;
    We are but slaves; the curse of work lies there!"

  14. Ease

    by Raymond Garfield Dandridge

    Oh! foolish one in quest of ease,
    Do you not know that ease on earth, for men,
    Is like unto the "Pot of Gold"
    upon the rainbow's end;
    A wily "will-o'-the-wisp" who
    flees, and flees, and flees,
    Not huriedly, but just a step
    beyond your grasp—is ease?

  15. A Sailor Ballad

    And still this rule in my mind shall dwell,
    Whatever I do, I will do it well...
    And do you not think that this simple plan
    Made him a wise and useful man?

    – Ruby Archer
    A Sailor Ballad
    by Ruby Archer

    Oh, tie your knot with a tug and twist,
    And never a careless bend,
    Look out for strands that you may have missed,
    And never leave a loose end.

    In law or love will the ruling hold:
    If trouble away you'd fend,
    Be careful ever, and often bold,
    But never leave a loose end.

    The lag or slip of a rope will give
    A loop that you can't defend.
    You'll hate yourself as long as you live—
    Oh, never leave a loose end!

    Some other fellow as quick as thought
    Will do what you cannot mend—
    Untie your luck or your true-love knot,—
    So never leave a loose end.

  16. The Grasshopper and the Ant

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    'Ant, look at me!' a young Grasshopper said,
    As nimbly he sprang from his green, summer bed,
    'See how I'm going to skip over your head,
    And could o'er a thousand like you!
    Ant, by your motion alone, I should judge
    That Nature ordained you a slave and a drudge,
    For ever and ever to keep on the trudge,
    And always find something to do.

    'Oh! there is nothing like having our day,
    Taking our pleasure and ease while we may,
    Bathing ourselves in the bright, mellow ray
    That comes from the warm, golden sun!
    While I am up in the light and the air,
    You, a sad picture of labor and care!
    Still have some hard, heavy burden to bear,
    And work that you never get done.

    'I have an exercise healthful, and good,
    For timing the nerves and digesting the food—
    Graceful gymnastics for stirring the blood
    Without the gross purpose of use.
    Ant, let me tell you 't is not a la mode,
    To plod like a pilgrim and carry a load,
    Perverting the limbs that for grace were bestowed,
    By such a plebeian abuse.

    'While the whole world with provisions is filled,
    Who would keep toiling and toiling to build
    And lay in a store for himself, till he 's killed
    With work that another might do?
    Come! drop your budget and just give a spring.
    Jump on a grass-blade and balance and swing.
    Soon you'll be light as a gnat on the wing,
    Gay as a grasshopper, too!'

    Ant trudged along while the grasshopper sung,
    Minding her business and holding her tongue,
    Until she got home her own people among;
    But these were her thoughts on the road.
    'What will become of that poor, idle one
    When the light sports of the summer are done?
    And, where is the covert to which he may run
    To find a safe winter abode?

    'Oh! if I only could tell him how sweet
    Toil makes my rest and the morsel I eat,
    While hope gives a spur to my little black feet,
    He'd never pity my lot!
    He'd never ask me my burden to drop
    To join in his folly—to spring, and to hop;
    And thus make the ant and her labor to stop,
    When time, I am certain, would not.

    'When the cold frost all the herbage has nipped,
    When the bare branches with ice-drops are tipped,
    Where will the grasshopper then be, that skipped,
    So careless and lightly to-day?
    Frozen to-death! 'a sad picture' indeed,
    Of reckless indulgence and what must succeed,
    That all his gymnastics ca 'nt shelter or feed,
    Or quicken his pulse into play.

    'I must prepare for a winter to come.
    I shall be glad of a home and a crumb,
    When my frail form out of doors would be numb,
    And I in the snow-storm should die.
    Summer is lovely, but soon will be past.
    Summer has plenty not always to last.
    Summer's the time for the ant to make fast
    Her stores for a future supply!'

  17. Be Strong

    Be strong!
    We are not here to play, to dream, to drift,
    We have hard work to do, and loads to lift.
    Shun not the struggle; face it. 'Tis God's gift.

    – Maltbie Davenport Babcock
    Be Strong
    by Maltbie Davenport Babcock

    Be strong!
    We are not here to play, to dream, to drift,
    We have hard work to do, and loads to lift.
    Shun not the struggle; face it. 'Tis God's gift.

    Be strong!
    Say not the days are evil, — Who's to blame?
    And fold not the hands and acquiesce, — O shame!
    Stand up, speak out, and bravely, in God's name.

    Be strong!
    It matters not how deep entrenched the wrong,
    How hard the battle goes, the day, how long.
    Faint not, fight on! To-morrow comes the song.

    Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

    – Ephesians 6:10
    The Bible, KJV
  18. "How Doth the Little Busy Bee"

    by Isaac Watts

    How doth the little busy bee
    Improve each shining hour,
    And gather honey all the day
    From every opening flower!

    How skilfully she builds her cell!
    How neat she spreads the wax!
    And labors hard to storeit well
    With the sweet food she makes.

    In works of labor or of skill,
    I would be busy too;
    For Satan finds some mischief still
    For idle hands to do.

    In books, or work, or healthful play,
    Let my first years be passed,
    That I may give for every day
    Some good account at last.

  19. The Butterfly and the Bee

    by William Lisle Bowles

    Methought I heard a butterfly
    Say to a laboring bee;
    "Thou hast no colors of the sky
    On painted wings like me."

    "Poor child of vanity! those dyes,
    And colors bright and rare,"
    With mild reproof, the bee replies,
    "Are all beneath my care."

    "Content I toil from morn till eve,
    And, scorning idleness,
    To tribes of gaudy sloth I leave
    The vanity of dress."

  20. The Cheery Chewink

    A worker's challenge bold and free,
    The alto call of industry...
    He shouts his slogan clear and strong,
    And glorifies his work with song.

    - Amos R. Wells
    The Cheery Chewink
    by Amos Russel Wells

    "Chewink! Chewink!" a sprightly sound
    Ringing across the bushy ground,
    A worker's challenge bold and free,
    The alto call of industry.

    Deep in the underbrush is heard
    The scratching of the busy bird;
    Behold, with energetic heaves,
    Both feet at once, he flings the leaves.

    But ever, pausing on the brink
    Of new descent—Chewink! Chewink!—
    He shouts his slogan clear and strong,
    And glorifies his work with song.

    No dreary drudgery for him,
    A very dandy happy and trim,
    With black and white and ruddy brown,
    The smartest gentleman in town!

    Ah, brother toilers, bent and worn
    Beneath your burdens all forlorn,
    Your work's a martyrdom, you think?
    Just hear that bird: "Chewink! Chewink!"

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