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Poems About Life Lessons

Table of Contents

  1. Experience by Emily Dickinson
  2. A Life Lesson by James Whitcomb Riley
  3. My Wage by Jessie Belle Rittenhouse
  4. Spinning Tow by Ellen P. Allerton
  5. Churning by Marcella Melville Hall Hines
  6. Life Sculpture by George Washington Doane
  7. Wolsey's Farewell to his Greatness by John Fletcher
  8. Perseverance by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  9. Upon the Sand by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
  10. A Parable by Mathilde Blind
  11. His Other Chance by Edgar A. Guest
  12. Seed Thoughts by Kate Louise Wheeler


Sometimes when you're in a dark place you think you've been buried, but you've actually been planted.

– Christine Caine
  1. Experience

    by Emily Dickinson

    I stepped from plank to plank
    So slow and cautiously;
    The stars about my head I felt,
    About my feet the sea.

    I knew not but the next
    Would be my final inch, —
    This gave me that precarious gait
    Some call experience.

  2. A Life Lesson

    by James Whitcomb Riley

    There! little girl; don't cry!
    They have broken your doll, I know;
    And your tea-set blue,
    And your play-house, too,
    Are things of the long ago;
    But childish troubles will soon pass by. —
    There! little girl; don't cry!

    There! little girl; don't cry!
    They have broken your slate, I know;
    And the glad, wild ways
    Of your schoolgirl days
    Are things of the long ago;
    But life and love will soon come by. —
    There! little girl; don't cry!

    There! little girl; don't cry!
    They have broken your heart I know;
    And the rainbow gleams
    Of your youthful dreams
    Are things of the long ago;
    But Heaven holds all for which you sigh. —
    There! little girl; don't cry!

  3. My Wage

    by Jessie Belle Rittenhouse

    I bargained with Life for a penny,
    And Life would pay no more,
    However I begged at evening
    When I counted my scanty store;

    For Life is a just employer,
    He gives you what you ask,
    But once you have set the wages,
    Why, you must bear the task.

    I worked for a menial's hire,
    Only to learn, dismayed,
    That any wage I had asked of Life,
    Life would have paid.

  4. Spinning Tow

    by Ellen P. Allerton

    A little maiden with braided hair
    Walks to and fro
    Before a wheel. What does she there?
    The child is spinning tow.

    In through the open window comes
    The scented breeze;
    With drowsy wing the wild bee hums
    Out in the orchard trees.

    The blue sky bends, the flowers are sweet,
    As children know;
    Yet with deft hands and steady feet,
    This child keeps spinning tow,

    Still works she; steady mounts the sun
    Through the skies of May,—
    The small task ends; the skein is spun;
    The girl bounds out to play.

    She learns life's lesson young you say?
    'Tis better so.
    That life is toil as well as play,
    She learns here spinning tow.

    Years pass. Beside her own hearthstone
    A woman stands
    With steady eye and cheerful tone,
    Brave heart and willing hands.

    This matron, who on household ways
    Glides to and fro,
    Learned when a child, on soft spring days,
    Life's lesson, spinning tow.

  5. Churning

    by Marcella Melville Hall Hines

    And What Bridget Thought About It.

    As into the churn fast falleth the cream
    Every drop quite alike doth seem,
    And never, amid such a general splutter,
    Can I tell for the life of me which is the butter.
    So I fasten the cover, and lift the dash,
    And smile as I list to the sullen splash
    With each downward sweep of that merciless lash—
    While the cream, all defenseless, leaps madly away
    From the rough, cruel blows that unceasingly play!
    But there's no escape, though it rise to the top
    Or down to the bottom despairingly drop;
    For a ready tormentor is on its track,
    And sooner or later, will bring it back.
    Till, tired of retreating, the mass will abide
    No more of such warfare, all on one side;
    And angrily mutters, in whisperings low,
    "No more of such peltings will I undergo
    Submissively, tamely—the future shall tell
    If blows I must take, I can give them as well;
    Let them strike if they choose, they'll recoil from the fun,
    For the soft, silly buttermilk only will run."
    Enough, quite enough, take the dasher away—
    What was cream in the morning is butter to-day.

    Just so with the world, mused I in my turn,
    As I took the rich butter up out of the churn,
    My soft cream thus changed to so solid a ball
    A strong hand was needed to mould it at all,—
    Just so with the world, small odds can be scanned,
    While the skies are unclouded, the breezes are bland
    Like a huge jar of cream, till there comes an hour
    Of commotion, fierce trial with testing power!
    And then, even then the resemblance holds true,
    For the world has its butter and buttermilk, too,
    As all cream is not butter, so in the world's plan—
    The moral is plain, if but rightly you scann:
    Society's buttermilk ne'er makes a man!

  6. Life Sculpture

    by George Washington Doane

    Chisel in hand stood a sculptor boy
    With his marble block before him,
    And his eyes lit up with a smile of joy,
    As an angel-dream passed o’er him.

    He carved the dream on that shapeless stone,
    With many a sharp incision;
    With heaven’s own flight the sculpture shone,—
    He’d caught that angel-vision.

    Children of life are we, as we stand
    With our lives uncarved before us,
    Waiting the hour when, at God’s command,
    Our life-dream shall pass o’er us.

    If we carve it then on the yielding stone,
    With many a sharp incision,
    Its heavenly beauty shall be our own,—
    Our lives, that angel-vision.


    Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.

    – Isaiah 64:8
    The Bible, NIV
  7. Wolsey's Farewell to his Greatness

    by John Fletcher

    Farewell! a long farewell, to all my greatness!
    This is the state of man: to-day he puts forth
    The tender leaves of hopes; to-morrow blossoms,
    And bears his blushing honours thick upon him;
    The third day comes a frost, a killing frost,
    And when he thinks, good easy man, full surely
    His greatness is a-ripening, nips his root,

    And then he falls, as I do. I have ventured,
    Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders,
    This many summers in a sea of glory,
    But far beyond my depth: my high-blown pride
    At length broke under me and now has left me,
    Weary and old with service, to the mercy
    Of a rude stream, that must forever hide me.
    Vain pomp and glory of this world, I hate ye:
    I feel my heart new opened. O, how wretched
    Is that poor man that hangs on princes’ favours!
    There is betwixt that smile we would aspire to,
    That sweet aspect of princes, and their ruin,
    More pangs and fears than wars or women have:
    And when he falls, he falls like Lucifer,
    Never to hope again.

  8. Perseverance

    by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    We must not hope to be mowers,
    And to gather the ripe gold ears,
    Unless we have first been sowers
    And watered the furrows with tears.

    It is not just as we take it,
    This mystical world of ours,
    Life's field will yield as we make it
    A harvest of thorns or of flowers.


    Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

    – 2 Corinthians 9:6
    The Bible, NIV

  9. Upon the Sand

    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

    All love that has not friendship for its base,
    Is like a mansion built upon the sand.
    Though brave its walls as any in the land,
    And its tall turrets lift their heads in grace;
    Though skilful and accomplished artists trace
    Most beautiful designs on every hand,
    And gleaming statues in dim niches stand,
    And fountains play in some flow'r-hidden place:

    Yet, when from the frowning east a sudden gust
    Of adverse fate is blown, or sad rains fall
    Day in, day out, against its yielding wall,
    Lo! the fair structure crumbles to the dust.
    Love, to endure life's sorrow and earth's woe,
    Needs friendship's solid masonwork below.

  10. A Parable

    by Mathilde Blind

    Between the sandhills and the sea
    A narrow strip of silver sand,
    Whereon a little maid doth stand,
    Who picks up shells continually,
    Between the sandhills and the sea.

    Far as her wondering eyes can reach,
    A vastness heaving gray in gray
    To the frayed edges of the day
    Furls his red standard on the breach
    Between the sky-line and the beach.

    The waters of the flowing tide
    Cast up the sea-pink shells and weed;
    She toys with shells, and doth not heed
    The ocean, which on every side
    Is closing round her vast and wide.

    It creeps her way as if in play,
    Pink shells at her pink feet to cast;
    But now the wild waves hold her fast,
    And bear her off and melt away,
    A vastness heaving gray in gray.

  11. His Other Chance

    by Edgar A. Guest

    He was down and out, and his pluck was gone,
    And he said to me in a gloomy way:
    "I've wasted my chances, one by one,
    And I'm just no good, as the people say.
    Nothing ahead, and my dreams all dust,
    Though once there was something I might have been,
    But I wasn't game, and I broke my trust,
    And I wasn't straight and I wasn't clean."

    "You're pretty low down," says I to him,
    "But nobody's holding you there, my friend.
    Life is a stream where men sink or swim,
    And the drifters come to a sorry end;
    But there's two of you living and breathing still—
    The fellow you are, and he's tough to see,
    And another chap, if you've got the will,
    The man that you still have a chance to be."

    He laughed with scorn. "Is there two of me?
    I thought I'd murdered the other one.
    I once knew a chap that I hoped to be,
    And he was decent, but now he's gone."
    "Well," says I, "it may seem to you
    That life has little of joy in store,
    But there's always something you still can do,
    And there's never a man but can try once more.

  12. School

    by Kate Louise Wheeler

    Life is a school for all man-kind,
    Where daily lessons are assigned
    And each may do his best;
    God is the Master who will teach
    The truths that lie within our reach
    And leave to us the rest.

    Each has his proper place at start
    And each can learn his little part
    If earnestly he tries;
    Altho' his standard may be low,
    He surely to the head will go
    Who on himself relies.

    Each has a chance among the rest
    To do his worst or do his best
    And his must be the choice,-
    Either to break the golden rule
    And cause confusion in life's school,
    Or heed the· Master's voice.

    The discipline is not severe,
    Altho' the Master we should fear
    To keep us from a wrong;
    There is no need to sigh and fret,
    · Or to despair, with lashes wet,
    Because our task seems long.

    The lessons that so oft' we spurn
    We know that some time We must learn,
    Then why should we delay?
    He stays behind who is the dunce,
    The wisest does his task at once
    And goes upon his way.

    The Master's sympathy prevails
    With him who tries altho' he fails,
    For He will help not chide;
    When rest and honors have been won
    He hears the Master say: "Well done,"
    And he is satisfied.