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Poems About Men

Table of Contents

  1. Difficult Definition by Anonymous
  2. The Outlaw by Charles Badger Clark
  3. A Man by Emily Dickinson
  4. True Nobility by Robert Nicoll
  5. The Manly Life by Henry van Dyke
  6. A Man's a Man for A' That by Robert Burns


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
  1. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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