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Poems About Self-Reliance

Table of Contents

  1. Invictus by William Ernest Henley
  2. The Man With the Axe by Horace Dumont Herr
  3. Firewood by Raymond Holden
  4. Give Me An Ax by Douglas Malloch
  5. Song of the Woodchopper by Eugene J. Hall
  6. The Wisdom of Reserve by Peter Burn

  1. Invictus

    by William Ernest Henley

    Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

    In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeonings of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.

    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade,
    And yet the menace of the years
    Finds and shall find me unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll,
    I am the master of my fate,
    I am the captain of my soul.

  2. The Man With the Axe

    by Horace Dumont Herr

    The Summer has come and the Summer is past,
    And "the man with the hoe," he is out of a job,
    The pastures are bare and are swept by the blast,
    And the cattle for grass must eat "corn on the cob,"
    While scraggy-haired colts are turned out to the stalks,
    But the woodman he whistles a tune as he walks.

    The Summer brings harvest of oats and of wheat,
    And the meadows are strewn with the fragrant new hay;
    And Autumn gives apples, and pumpkin and beet,
    And the fruits and the nuts make the gatherers gay;
    But fruits for the cellar and wheat for the stacks
    Have a rival in the harvest of the wood chopper's ax.

    The scythe is keen edged and the sword is a power,
    And the reaper, old Time, mows a path thro' the years,
    And age falls in ripeness and childhood in flower,
    And the sword hews a channel for blood and for tears;
    But the woodman he smites with a stroke that ne'er tires,
    For his ax cleaves the wood for the home-altar fires.

    The snowflakes have wrapped in white down the dark earth,
    And the woods a black fringe show against the cold sky;
    When all appears dead that in Summer had birth,
    And there's not a bird songster a solo to try,
    Then cheery as notes of the robin in Spring
    Does the ax of the woodman re-echo and ring.

    A man of wood-craft the good axman is he,
    He knows well the name and the nature of wood,
    Can chip, and make fall any sort of a tree
    In the very direction he willed that it should;
    And when it is down on its body he stands,
    And he severs the giant, with the ax in his hands.

    This man of the woods is a surgeon of trees,
    He can chop a straight cut or a flying slant chip,
    He can halve with his wedge, if it so should him please,
    And can quarter, and heart, and around the knot slip,
    'Til body and limbs into cordwood he racks,
    For an artist is he with the wedge and the ax.

    He swings his great maul like the hammer of Thor,
    And the cord-lengths fly open of oak and of beach,
    'Till the clearing at last is with wood scattered o'er,
    And heaped up as high as the chopper can reach
    Are the tepees of brush that the axman has made
    In the places where trees by his ax were low laid.

    All corded and straight thro' the Summer shall lie
    All the wood that the woodman in Winter has chopped,
    In wind and in sun will the sticks slowly dry,
    And when Winter again plow and reaper has stopped,
    The farmer to sheds with his horses will draw
    What the axman has cut for the buck and the saw.

    And often the farmer, the evening before,
    Will upon his red wagon pile up a good load
    To haul it to town for some dwelling or store,
    And the wheels of his broad-tread will sing on the road,
    With four horses drawing it over the snow,
    For the axman's dry wood to the city must go.

  3. Firewood

    by Raymond Holden

    The glittering crescent of my blade
    Is stuck with juices of the tree:
    There is the wound which I have made,
    There are the dark boughs over me.
    I swing the axe. The cones are shaken
    And the shuddering tree begins to come
    With ripping shrieks which might awaken
    The gorged fox in his hidden home.
    My blood is brightened and my eyes
    Are blurred with flashes of a fire
    That leaps like wind and only dies
    When I have cut what I require.
    The fresh chips falling in the snow
    Have something for the sunny wind
    Which rose a little while ago
    In the old spruce forest I have thinned,
    And I whose cheeks can feel it blow
    Rest aching hands upon my axe
    And have a desperate wish to know
    What kind of flame my chimney lacks. . . .
    Why covet skeletons for food
    To keep a man from stiffening
    With cold not made to chill the blood
    Of fox's foot or bird's wing?

  4. Give Me An Ax

    by Douglas Malloch

    'Member when I was a kid workin' in the old wood lot
    Where we used to chop an' cut, where our winter's warmth we got—
    Pa on one end of a saw, me upon the other end,
    'Till I thought my body'd break like we made the cross-cut bend.
    Then, just to encourage me, make my bosom swell with pride,
    Pa would say, "If you can't pull, don't git on the saw an' ride."
    Sometimes, though, the saw would stick, though we nearly broke our backs;
    Then pa'd yell, "All hands stand by—look out fer heads—give me an ax!"

    That's some twenty years ago; things have changed a heap since then—
    Pa sleeps where the wood lot was, I toil here fer city men.
    Some I marvel at their ways, some I marvel, some I'm mad;
    Diff'rent sort of chaps are they from my dear, old, cranky dad—
    Nothin' here to breathe but smoke, nothin' here to hear but noise;
    Wonder thet I sometimes long fer my childhood pains an' joys?
    An' I'd like to shut my eyes, shut out reason, shut out facts—
    Hear again, "All hands stand by—look out fer heads—give me an ax!"

    City folks ain't country folks, city ways ain't country ways—
    More I come to think these things as I near my final days.
    When I read of boodlers, read of those who rob the poor,
    When I see the villain's hand with its touch defile the pure;
    When I see the rottenness, see the slowness of reform,
    See how high a wall it is decency an' right must storm,
    Then I know what ails it all, know jest what it is it lacks—
    Men like pa of old to yell: "Look out fer heads—give me an ax!"

  5. Song of the Woodchopper

    by Eugene J. Hall

    Out in the bleak, cold woods he stands,
    Swinging his axe with sturdy hands;
    Sharply the blue-jays near him call,
    Softly the snow-flakes round him fall;
    Gayly he sings,
    As his axe he swings,
    "What care I for the ice or snow,—
    Here away, there away, down you go."

    Loud the winds through the tree-tops sigh;
    Far the chips from his keen axe fly;
    Fiercely the tree-trunks, gray and brown,
    Totter, sway, and come tumbling down.
    Gayly he sings,
    As his axe he swings,
    "What care I for the ice or snow,—
    Here away, there away, down you go.

    "There's time to work and time to sleep;
    There's time to laugh and time to weep;
    The chips must fly, the trees must fall
    To feed the fire that warms us all."
    Gayly he sings,
    As his axe he swings,
    "What care I for the ice or snow,—
    Here away, there away, down you go."

  6. The Wisdom of Reserve

    by Peter Burn

    If, my youthful brother.
    Thou art low and poor,
    Tell't not to another,
    He may pass thy door:
    If thou would'st have prosperity,
    Conceal from men thy poverty.

    Should'st thou, youthful brother,
    Find misfortunes rife
    Tell't not to another,
    Bear alone the strife:
    With reproof thy friend may grieve thee,
    And in thy distress may leave thee.

    Act thou thus, my brother:
    When life's ills descend,
    Trust not to another,
    On thyself depend;
    And thou wilt soon successful be,
    Then men will praise and honour thee.

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