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Poems About Men

Table of Contents

  1. If— by Rudyard Kipling
  2. Men O' The Forest Mark by Jean Blewett
  3. The Rugged Sons of Maine by Douglas Malloch
  4. The Manly Life by Henry van Dyke
  5. Difficult Definition by Anonymous
  6. The Outlaw by Charles Badger Clark
  7. A Man by Emily Dickinson
  8. True Nobility by Robert Nicoll
  9. A Man's a Man for A' That by Robert Burns
  10. The Lumberjack by Douglas Malloch
  11. The Lumbermen by John Greenleaf Whittier
  12. Heroes of the "Titanic" by Henry Van Dyke
  13. Men Wanted by E. F. Hayward
  14. The Trapper's Story by James W. Whilt
  15. The Swamper by Douglas Malloch
  16. "Nothing to Do." by Peter Burn
  17. Boots by Rudyard Kipling

True manliness is in harmony with gentleness, kindness, and self-denial.

– M. O. Johnson
McGuffey's Fourth Eclectic Reader
  1. If—

    by 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 worn-out 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!

  2. Men O' The Forest Mark

    by Jean Blewett

    What we most need is men of worth,
    Men o' the forest mark,
    Of lofty height and mighty girth
    And green, unbroken bark.

    Not men whom circumstances
    Have stunted, wasted, sapped,
    Men fearful of fighting chances,
    Clinging to by-paths mapped.

    Holding honor and truth below
    Promotion, place and pelf;
    Weaklings that change as winds do blow,
    Lost in their love of self.

    Tricksters playing a game unfair
    (Count them, sirs, at this hour),
    Ready to dance to maddest air
    Piped by the man in power.

    The need, sore need, of this young land
    Is honest men, good sirs,
    Men as her oak trees tall and grand,
    Staunch as her stalwart firs.

    Steadfast, unswerving, first and last,
    Fearless of front and strong,
    Meeting the challenge of the blast
    With high, clear battle song.

    Not sapless things of the byways,
    Lacking in life and strength,
    Not shrivelled shrubs of the highways,
    Pigmy of breadth and length,

    But noblest growth of God's green earth—
    Men o' the forest mark,
    Of lofty height and giant girth
    And green, unbroken bark.

  3. The Rugged Sons of Maine

    by Douglas Malloch

    Beneath the spruce tree and the pine
    Were little children reared
    And something of that regal line
    In their own blood appeared.
    For they were mighty, like the tree
    In form and heart and brain
    And grew in stately dignity—
    The rugged sons of Maine.

    Their cradle was the bough that swings,
    Their lullaby the breeze
    That strikes the forest's waiting strings
    And wakes its harmonies.
    They laved their feet in purling brooks
    That tumble to the plain,
    And learned from Nature more than books-
    The rugged sons of Maine.

    No terrors in the forest dwelt
    Or through the forest crept—
    It was the altar where they knelt,
    The chamber where they slept.
    They walked its solemn aisles secure
    From want or care or pain,
    In health and vigor rich, though poor—
    The rugged sons of Maine.

    The rugged sons of Maine have stamped
    Their impress on the world,
    Beneath the battleflag have tramped
    Where death's tornado whirled.
    The peacetime's greater victories
    Have felt the hand and brain
    Of children of the forest trees—
    The rugged sons of Maine.

    And some there were who left the wild
    To other hills to roam,
    But never does the forest child
    Forget the forest home.
    Remembering its tender love
    In sunshine and in rain,
    They proudly wear the title of
    The rugged sons of Maine.

  4. The Manly Life

    by Henry van Dyke. This poem is also known as Four Things

    Four things a man must learn to do
    If he would make his record true:
    To think without confusion clearly;
    To love his fellow-men sincerely;
    To act from honest motives purely;
    To trust in God and Heaven securely.

  5. Difficult Definition

    by Amos Russel Wells

    What is a man? A bit of clay
    The rain dissolves and floats away;

    A diamond of lustre rare,
    Forever firm, forever fair;

    A bubble dancing on the stream,
    An empty film, a bursting gleam;

    A king upon a dateless throne,
    With all eternity his own;

    A mockery of love and hate,
    The play of time, the sport of fate;

    The conqueror of endless life,
    Victorious in every strife;

    Compact of virtue and of sin,
    Creation's matchiess harlequin;

    And each of these, in devious plan,
    Discernible in every man!

    Why, what Superior Scientist,
    What Erudite Anatomist,

    Could pick these creatures from the bog,
    And classify and catalogue?

  6. The Outlaw

    by Charles Badger Clark

    When my rope takes hold on a two-year-old,
    By the foot or the neck or the horn,
    He kin plunge and fight till his eyes go white
    But I'll throw him as sure as you're born.
    Though the taut ropes sing like a banjo string
    And the latigoes creak and strain,
    Yet I got no fear of an outlaw steer
    And I'll tumble him on the plain.

    For a man is a man, but a steer is a beast,
    And the man is the boss of the herd,
    And each of the bunch, from the biggest to least,
    Must come down when he says the word.

    When my leg swings 'cross on an outlaw hawse
    And my spurs clinch into his hide,
    He kin r'ar and pitch over hill and ditch,
    But wherever he goes I'll ride.
    Let 'im spin and flop like a crazy top
    Or flit like a wind-whipped smoke,
    But he'll know the feel of my rowelled heel
    Till he's happy to own he's broke.

    For a man is a man and a hawse is a brute,
    And the hawse may be prince of his clan
    But he'll bow to the bit and the steel-shod boot
    And own that his boss is the man.

    When the devil at rest underneath my vest
    Gets up and begins to paw
    And my hot tongue strains at its bridle reins,
    Then I tackle the real outlaw.
    When I get plumb riled and my sense goes wild
    And my temper is fractious growed,
    If he'll hump his neck just a triflin' speck,
    Then it's dollars to dimes I'm throwed.

    For a man is a man, but he's partly a beast.
    He kin brag till he makes you deaf,
    But the one lone brute, from the west to the east,
    That he kaint quite break is himse'f.

  7. A Man

    by Emily Dickinson

    Fate slew him, but he did not drop;
    She felled — he did not fall —
    Impaled him on her fiercest stakes —
    He neutralized them all.

    She stung him, sapped his firm advance,
    But, when her worst was done,
    And he, unmoved, regarded her,
    Acknowledged him a man.

  8. True Nobility

    Robert Nicoll

    I ask not for his lineage,
    I ask not for his name;
    If manliness be in his heart, He noble birth may claim.
    I care not though of this world’s wealth But slender be his part,
    If yes, you answer, when I ask Hath he a true man’s heart?

    I ask not from what land he came, Nor where his youth was nursed;
    If pure the stream, it matters not The spot from whence it burst.
    The palace or the hovel,
    Where first his life began,
    I seek not for; but answer this, Is he an honest man?

  9. A Man's a Man for A' That

    by Robert Burns. Also know as "Is Ther for Honest Poverty"

    Is there for honesty poverty
    That hings his head, an' a' that;
    The coward slave — we pass him by,
    We dare be poor for a' that!
    For a' that, an' a' that,
    Our toils obscure an' a' that,
    The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
    The man's the gowd for a' that.

    What though on hamely fare we dine,
    Wear hoddin grey, an' a' that?
    Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine,
    A man's a man for a' that.
    For a' that, an' a' that,
    Their tinsel show, an' a' that,
    The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
    Is king o' men for a' that.

    Ye see yon birkie ca'd a lord,
    Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
    Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
    He's but a coof for a' that.
    For a' that, an' a' that,
    His ribband, star, an' a' that,
    The man o' independent mind
    He looks an' laughs at a' that.

    A price can mak a belted knight,
    A marquise, duke, an' a' that;
    But an honest man's aboon his might,
    Gude faith, he maunna fa' that!
    For a' that, an' a' that,
    Their dignities an' a' that,
    The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth,
    Are higher rank than a' that.

    Then let us pray that come it may,
    (As come it will for a' that,)
    That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
    Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
    For a' that, an' a' that,
    That man to man, the world o'er,
    Shall brithers be for a' that.

  10. The Lumberjack

    by Douglas Malloch

    An untamed creature of the forest wilds,
    He lives to that wild place a soul akin—
    A man whose days are often steeped in sin,
    And yet whose heart is tender as a child's.

    His strength is like the strength of mighty pines,
    His outward form a bark of many scars;
    His head he carries proudly in the stars,
    The while his feet are meshed in tangled vines.

    Calamities throw viselike tendrils out
    To seize him in their hindering embrace;
    The thorns of wrong whip sharply in his face
    And poisoned things encompass him about.

    He braves disease, the storm, the falling tree,
    The mad, quick water that would hold and drown;
    But all earth's terrors cannot bear him down
    Or make this man of dangers bend the knee.

    He breathes the air the sturdy maple breathes,
    He walks the soil the selfsame maple feeds;
    To forest sources looks he for his needs—
    Oh, where are trees and men like unto these?

  11. The Lumbermen

    by John Greenleaf Whittier

    Wildly round our woodland quarters
    Sad-voiced Autumn grieves;
    Thickly down these swelling waters
    Float his fallen leaves.
    Through the tall and naked timber,
    Column-like and old,
    Gleam the sunsets of November
    From their skies of gold.

    O'er us, to the southland heading,
    Screams the gray wild-goose;
    On the night-frost sounds the treading
    Of the brindled moose.
    Noiseless creeping, while we're sleeping,
    Frost his task-work plies;
    Soon, his icy bridges heaping,
    Shall our log-piles rise.

    When, with sounds of smothered thunder,
    On some night of rain,
    Lake and river break asunder
    Winter's weakened chain,
    Down the wild March flood shall bear them
    To the saw-mill's wheel,
    Or where Steam, the slave, shall tear them
    With his teeth of steel.

    Be it starlight, be it moonlight,
    In these vales below,
    When the earliest beams of sunlight
    Streak the mountain's snow,
    Crisps the hoar-frost, keen and early,
    To our hurrying feet,
    And the forest echoes clearly
    All our blows repeat.

    Where the crystal Ambijejis
    Stretches broad and clear,
    And Millnoket's pine-black ridges
    Hide the browsing deer:
    Where, through lakes and wide morasses,
    Or through rocky walls,
    Swift and strong, Penobscot passes
    White with foamy falls;

    Where, through clouds, are glimpses given
    Of Katahdin's sides,—
    Rock and forest piled to heaven,
    Torn and ploughed by slides!
    Far below, the Indian trapping,
    In the sunshine warm;
    Far above, the snow-cloud wrapping
    Half the peak in storm!

    Where are mossy carpets better
    Than the Persian weaves,
    And than Eastern perfumes sweeter
    Seem the fading leaves;
    And a music wild and solemn,
    From the pine-tree's height,
    Rolls its vast and sea-like volume
    On the wind of night;

    Make we here our camp of winter;
    And, through sleet and snow,
    Pitchy knot and beechen splinter
    On our hearth shall glow.
    Here, with mirth to lighten duty,
    We shall lack alone
    Woman's smile and girlhood's beauty,
    Childhood's lisping tone.

    But their hearth is brighter burning
    For our toil to-day;
    And the welcome of returning
    Shall our loss repay,
    When, like seamen from the waters,
    From the woods we come,
    Greeting sisters, wives, and daughters,
    Angels of our home!

    Not for us the measured ringing
    From the village spire,
    Not for us the Sabbath singing
    Of the sweet-voiced choir:
    Ours the old, majestic temple,
    Where God's brightness shines
    Down the dome so grand and ample,
    Propped by lofty pines!

    Through each branch-enwoven skylight,
    Speaks He in the breeze,
    As of old beneath the twilight
    Of lost Eden's trees!
    For His ear, the inward feeling
    Needs no outward tongue;
    He can see the spirit kneeling
    While the axe is swung.

    Heeding truth alone, and turning
    From the false and dim,
    Lamp of toil or altar burning
    Are alike to Him.
    Strike, then, comrades!—Trade is waiting
    On our rugged toil;
    Far ships waiting for the freighting
    Of our woodland spoil!

    Ships, whose traffic links these highlands,
    Bleak and cold, of ours,
    With the citron-planted islands
    Of a clime of flowers;
    To our frosts the tribute bringing
    Of eternal heats;
    In our lap of winter flinging
    Tropic fruits and sweets.

    Cheerly, on the axe of labor,
    Let the sunbeams dance,
    Better than the flash of sabre
    Or the gleam of lance!
    Strike!—With every blow is given
    Freer sun and sky,
    And the long-hid earth to heaven
    Looks, with wondering eye!

    Loud behind us grow the murmurs
    Of the age to come;
    Clang of smiths, and tread of farmers,
    Bearing harvest home!
    Here her virgin lap with treasures
    Shall the green earth fill;
    Waving wheat and golden maize-ears
    Crown each beechen hill.

    Keep who will the city's alleys,
    Take the smooth-shorn plain,—
    Give to us the cedarn valleys,
    Rocks and hills of Maine!
    In our North-land, wild and woody,
    Let us still have part;
    Rugged nurse and mother sturdy,
    Hold us to thy heart!

    O, our free hearts beat the warmer
    For thy breath of snow;
    And our tread is all the firmer
    For thy rocks below.
    Freedom, hand in hand with Labor,
    Walketh strong and brave;
    On the forehead of his neighbor
    No man writeth Slave!

    Lo, the day breaks! old Katahdin's
    Pine-trees show its fires,
    While from these dim forest gardens
    Rise their blackened spires.
    Up, my comrades! up and doing!
    Manhood's rugged play
    Still renewing, bravely hewing
    Through the world our way!

  12. Heroes of the "Titanic"

    by Henry van Dyke

    Honour the brave who sleep
    Where the lost "Titanic" lies,
    The men who knew what a man must do
    When he looks Death in the eyes.

    "Women and children first,"—
    Ah strong and tender cry!
    The sons whom women had borne and nursed,
    Remembered,—and dared to die.

    The boats crept off in the dark:
    The great ship groaned: and then,—
    O stars of the night, who saw that sight,
    Bear witness, These were men!

  13. Men Wanted

    by E. F. Hayward

    We need the man of spine, today,
    To boldly take the floor;
    And without hesitation, say
    Things, which make rascals sore.

    The kind who never climbs a fence
    When issues are at stake;
    The man with good old common sense,—
    Whose brain is wide awake.

    The one who speaks just what he thinks,
    As only thinkers can;
    Not one who only sits and winks,
    For "policy's" his plan.

    Of such as he, there's not a few,
    Nor need for any more;
    Get off the fence, if this means you,
    A coward is a "bore."

    We need the man who has the nerve
    To choose what's right, then stick;
    The only kind that's fit to serve,
    Is one the thieves can't lick.

  14. The Trapper's Story

    by James W. Whilt

    The trapper sat in his cabin
    With grizzled beard and hair,
    Yet straight as any soldier's
    Were his massive shoulders square.
    Eyes as clear as a mountain spring
    That could pierce you at a glance,
    Sharp as a pointed arrow
    Or Indian warrior's lance.

    "Pard, will you kindly tell me
    Why you seek the hills,
    Why you love the solitude
    The lakes and crystal rills?
    I don't want to be inquisitive,
    Or pry into your life,
    But; did you ever have a sweetheart,
    Did you ever have a wife?"

    The trapper turned his eyes on me,
    'Twas with a friendly smile:—
    "Yes, Pal, I had a sweetheart,
    Also a wife and child.
    We had a little cabin,
    With plenty to wear and eat;
    We were richer far than any king,
    'Twas love so pure and sweet.

    And Oh! how she loved the forest,
    And how she would sing all day;
    Happier far than the spotted fawns
    That on yonder hillside play.
    Then she told me the news one evening,
    That made me feel so proud;
    A child was soon to crown our joy;
    Say;—I walked along a cloud!

    Now, Pard, I can't explain to you,—
    How am I going to tell
    Of the joy within our cabin
    That we both had loved so well?
    But God loves the best and purest,—
    Say, my eyes are growing dim—
    He took her up to Heaven
    Along with Little Jim!

    So now I seek the forest
    For I know her Spirit is here,
    For very often on the trail
    I feel her presence near.
    And as long as the Creator
    Will let me cruise around,
    It will always be the woods for me,
    I think them sacred ground."

  15. The Swamper

    by Douglas Malloch

    I am the under dog,
    I am the low-down cuss,
    I am the standin' joke,
    I am the easy meat.
    Fellah thet skids the log
    Gits all the fame an' fuss—
    What of the man who broke
    Roads fer the hosses' feet?

    Sing of the arm thet's strong,
    Sing of the saw thet shines,
    Sing of the chopper's might,
    Sing of the boss's brain;
    Who ever sung your song,
    Swampers among the pines,
    Fellahs who led the fight
    Out in the snow an' rain?

    We are the pioneers,
    We are the great advance,
    We are the men who break
    Roads with our horny hands.
    Ours not the shouts an' cheers,
    Ours not the singers' chants—
    Ours but a path to make
    Straight through the forest lands.

    They who shall come shall reap
    Glory thet we have won,
    They who shall come shall claim
    Praise an' the world's hooray.
    Ours but a trust to keep,
    Ours but a road to run;
    Others shall walk to fame
    After we lead the way.

    So it shall often be,
    So it shall be in life,
    So it shall often seem,
    Seem in the things men do—
    Sung in no history,
    Heard in no tale of strife,
    Oft shall the dreamer dream,
    Fergot when his dream comes true.

  16. "Nothing to Do."

    by Peter Burn

    "Nothing to do," is labour enough,
    To the man of heart, the man of brain;
    Better for him, the world to rough,
    To toil in hunger, to toil in pain,
    Than idly live, with an aimless aim,
    Playing out life in a gainless game.

    Labour is rest to the man of soul,
    The man who treasures the gift of Time;
    "Nothing to do," is a sluggard's goal;
    A life of ease is a life of crime;
    A play with Time is a game of loss,
    A staking our all on a gamester's toss.

    "Nothing to do," can never be said;
    While it is day, there is work to be done!
    Work for the pen, and work for the spade—
    Work for all workers under the sun;
    The call to work is a common call,
    A call to be answered by one and by all.

    Answer the call with a love and a will,
    Be it to heart, or be it to brain;
    Be it to battle and conquer an ill,
    Be it to comfort a brother in pain;
    Whatever it be, to the front of the van!
    There is something to do; to thy name—be a man!

  17. Rudyard Kipling

    by Rudyard Kipling

    We're foot—slog—slog—slog—sloggin’ over Africa!
    Foot—foot—foot—foot—sloggin’ over Africa—
    (Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up and down again!)
    There’s no discharge in the war!

    Seven—six—eleven—five—nine-an’-twenty mile to-day—
    Four—eleven—seventeen—thirty-two the day before—
    (Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up and down again!)
    There’s no discharge in the war!

    Don’t—don’t—don’t—don’t—look at what’s in front of you.
    (Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again!)
    Men—men—men—men—men go mad with watchin’ ’em,
    And there’s no discharge in the war!

    Try—try—try—try—to think o’ something different—
    Oh—my—God—keep—me from goin’ lunatic!
    (Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again!)
    There’s no discharge in the war!

    Count—count—count—count—the bullets in the bandoliers.
    If—your—eyes—drop—they will get atop o’ you
    (Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up and down again!)
    There’s no discharge in the war!

    We—can—stick—out—’unger, thirst, an’ weariness,
    But—not—not—not—not the chronic sight of ’em—
    Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again!
    An’ there’s no discharge in the war!

    ’Tain’t—so—bad—by—day because o’ company,
    But—night—brings—long—strings—o’ forty thousand million
    Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again.
    There’s no discharge in the war!

    I—’ave—marched—six—weeks in ’Ell an’ certify
    It—is—not—fire—devils—dark or anything,
    But boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again,
    An’ there’s no discharge in the war!

We want great men who, when fortune frowns, will not be discouraged.

– Henry Knox, Colonel in the Continental Army
written to his wife after the Battle of Long Island on Aug 27, 1776

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