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Poems About Success

Table of Contents

Measuring Success

  1. Success by Ralph Waldo Emerson
  2. Success by Bessie A Stanley
  3. Success by Anonymous
  4. Success by Anonymous
  5. Success by Emily Dickinson
  6. Success by Edgar A. Guest
  7. Triumph may be of several kinds by Emily Dickinson
  8. What's the Score? by Anonymous
  9. The Story of Two Speeches by Anonymous
  10. The Snare by Jessie Belle Rittenhouse
  11. Greatness Is Goodness by Evander A. Crewson

The Way to Succeed

  1. The Way to Succeed by Peter Burn
  2. The Key to Success by Robin A. Walker
  3. Old Men's Counsel by Anonymous
  4. Saying and Doing by Anonymous
  5. Earnestness by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
  6. My Creed by Edgar A. Guest

Overcoming Adversity

  1. Endeavor by Anonymous
  2. Try Again by Anonymous
  3. John Curzon's Watch by Anonymous
  4. How the Little Kite Learned to Fly by Anonymous
  5. The Seedling by Laurence Dunbar
  6. Triumphalis by Bliss Carman
  7. Success by Bernhardt Paul Holst
  8. Keep Going by Edgar A. Guest

Applause waits on success.

– Ben Franklin


  1. Success

    To know that even one life has breathed easier
    Because you have lived  
    This is to have succeeded.

    - Ralph Waldo Emerson
    by Ralph Waldo Emerson

    To laugh often and love much;
    To win the respect of intelligent persons
    And the affection of children;
    To earn the approbation of honest critics
    And to endure the betrayal of false friends;
    To appreciate beauty;
    To find the best in others;
    To give of one's self;
    To leave the world a little better,
    Whether by a healthy child,
    A garden patch
    Or a redeemed social condition;
    To have played and laughed with enthusiasm
    And sung with exultation;
    To know that even one life has breathed easier
    Because you have lived  
    This is to have succeeded.

  2. Success

    He has achieved success who has lived well,
    laughed often and loved much:

    - Bessie A. Stanley
    by Bessie A. Stanley

    He has achieved success who has lived well,
    laughed often and loved much:
    who has enjoyed the trust of pure women,
    the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
    who has filled the niche and accomplished his task;
    who has left the world better than he found it;
    whether by an improved poppy,
    a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
    who has never lacked appreciation of Earth's beauty
    or failed to express it;
    who has always looked for the best in others
    and given the best he had.
    Whose life was an inspiration;
    Whose memory a benediction.

  3. Success

    by Anonymous

    Success is speaking words of praise,
    In cheering other people's ways.
    In doing just the best you can,
    With every task and every plan.

    It's silence when your speech would hurt,
    Politeness when your neighbor's curt.
    It's deafness when the scandal flows,
    And sympathy with others' woes.

    It's loyalty when duty calls,
    It's courage when disaster falls.
    It's patience when the hours are long,
    It's found in laughter and in song.

    It's in the silent time of prayer,
    In happiness and in despair.
    In all of life and nothing less,
    We find the thing we call success.

  4. Success

    To wear contentment shining on the brow;
    Above the gathered treasures of the globe
    To reckon brotherhood. and make it mine,—
    This is success, and this my prayer shall be.

    - Amos R. Wells
    by Amos Russel Wells

    If he succeeds whose coffers, heaped with gold,
    Are red with ruined and despairing lives,
    The man who owns a mint to coin tears,
    Expert to wring a farthing from a heart,—
    Though all the world pay homage, all the world
    Envy the wretch,—if this is to succeed,
    My pride and all my hope shall be to fail!

    If he succeeds who bids the magpie crowd,
    Tossing his name upon its chattering tongues,
    Talk, write, and dream of him, and they obey,
    While he they praise, alive on lips of men,
    Has breathed his soul into the bubble, fame,
    And lives an empty life,—if he succeeds,
    Be mine a life of failure to the end!

    If he succeeds, the man of strenuous brain,
    Skilled in the deeps and heights of many a lore,
    Bent with the plundered wealth of libraries,
    But ignorant of love, and ignorant
    Of all the roses and the stars of life,—
    Though men unite to wonder and applaud,
    If this is called success, be mine defeat!

    But these are not success; success it is
    To front the angry tumult of a world
    With Right for comrade; faithfully to work;
    To wear contentment shining on the brow;
    Above the gathered treasures of the globe
    To reckon brotherhood. and make it mine,—
    This is success, and this my prayer shall be.

  5. Success

    Success is counted sweetest
    By those who ne'er succeed.
    To comprehend a nectar
    Requires sorest need.

    - Emily Dickinson
    by Emily Dickinson

    Success is counted sweetest
    By those who ne'er succeed.
    To comprehend a nectar
    Requires sorest need.

    Not one of all the purple host
    Who took the flag to-day
    Can tell the definition,
    So clear, of victory,

    As he, defeated, dying,
    On whose forbidden ear
    The distant strains of triumph
    Break, agonized and clear!

  6. Success

    by Edgar A. Guest

    This I would claim for my success—not fame nor gold,
    Nor the throng's changing cheers from day to day,
    Not always ease and fortune's glad display,
    Though all of these are pleasant joys to hold;
    But I would like to have my story told
    By smiling friends with whom I've shared the way,
    Who, thinking of me, nod their heads and say:
    "His heart was warm when other hearts were cold.

    "None turned to him for aid and found it not,
    His eyes were never blind to man's distress,
    Youth and old age he lived, nor once forgot
    The anguish and the ache of loneliness;
    His name was free from stain or shameful blot
    And in his friendship men found happiness."

    When in the immortal ranks enlisted,
    I sometimes wonder if we shall not find
    That not by deeds, but by what we've resisted,
    Our places are assigned.

    - Ella Wheeler Wilcox
    As By Fire

  7. Triumph may be of several kinds

    by Emily Dickinson

    Triumph may be of several kinds.
    There 's triumph in the room
    When that old imperator, Death,
    By faith is overcome.

    There 's triumph of the finer mind
    When truth, affronted long,
    Advances calm to her supreme,
    Her God her only throng.

    A triumph when temptation's bribe
    Is slowly handed back,
    One eye upon the heaven renounced
    And one upon the rack.

    Severer triumph, by himself
    Experienced, who can pass
    Acquitted from that naked bar,
    Jehovah's countenance!

  8. What's the Score?

    And happily on earth some day
    We shall behold with clearer eyes,
    And measure life a better way.
    We shall regard how difficult
    And true the course men struggle o'er,

    - Anonymous
    What's the Score?
    by Anonymous

    It's football, baseball, auto, yacht,
    It's where men ride or shoot or row,
    It's golf or tennis or what not—
    There's just one thing we want to know.
    In city, village, wilderness,
    On mountain-top, on ocean shore,
    Americans insanely press
    One hot inquiry, "What's the score?"

    And just the same where Business rules
    His eager minions clamorous,
    The rash, the prudent, sages, fools,
    No other fact will do for us.
    We do not ask his course of trade,
    Or fair, or tricks, or something more;
    But only ask how much he made,
    His total plunder, "What's the score?"

    And just the same in high reforms,
    Where men contend with rampant sin,
    And struggle in a thousand storms,
    And fight great foes, without, within,
    We do not note their zeal complete,
    Their patience, courage, sorrow sore;
    But only note success, defeat,
    Their patent progress, "What's the score?"

    In heaven other questions rise,
    And happily on earth some day
    We shall behold with clearer eyes,
    And measure life a better way.
    We shall regard how difficult
    And true the course men struggle o'er,
    Nor only ask the crude result,
    The open outcome, "What's the score?"

  9. The Story of Two Speeches

    by Anonymous

    An eloquent word—for the Master,
    Yet half for the speaker, too;
    For he sought as his gain the praises of men
    And not the good he might do.

    So the angels sadly left it,
    And for all of its lofty sound,
    Men tossed it awhile to and fro with a smile,
    And then let it fall to the ground,

    A stammering word for the Master,—
    Blundering, timid, and slow;
    But the best he could do, for his purpose was true,
    But his heart was a-thumping so.

    Yet the angels seized it and bore it
    On pinions happy and strong,
    And made it a sword in the war of the Lord,
    The struggle of right against wrong.

    For the battle is not to the giant,
    The race is not to the fleet,
    And an armor of might for the bitterest fight
    Is found at the Saviour's feet.

    And thrones in the highest heaven,
    And the laud of the seraphim.
    Are for weak ones that dare follow Christ anywhere,
    Yea, venture to fall—for Him.

  10. The Snare

    by Jessie Belle Rittenhouse

    Many birds will fly away
    From the cages that I build,
    Yet if one shall sing and stay,
    I have all the joy I willed.

    Many songs are in the air,
    Flitting like evasive birds,
    Ah, if I but one may snare
    In the cage of words.

  11. Greatness Is Goodness

    by Evander A. Crewson

    Down along the vale of years
    A Lincoln or Grady sometimes appears,
    With grandest qualities in man combined,
    Kind in heart and great in mind.

    So great in mind, so kind in heart,
    That dignity bears but little part;
    We love him because we understand
    Goodness and greatness go hand in hand.

    Though mid stars his name be lined,
    His love grows deeper for all mankind;
    Though with jewels his crown be set,
    That he is our friend we never forget.

    Counting it all, the heart is the gate,
    And only through love can greatness be great;
    The greatest of names we have written above
    On fame's blazing scroll are written by love.

  12. The Way to Succeed

    by Peter Burn

    Ready and steady and willing to do,
    Taking the duty that opens to view,
    Turning not back, once your hand's to the plough,
    That is the way to succeed.
    Rise to the need! Do and succeed!
    Noble the worker if noble his deed;
    Holding to purpose where evils impede,
    That is the way to succeed.

    Taking, whilst others are waiting the tide,
    Setting disasters and failures aside,
    Braving the dangers which others have shied,
    That is the way to succeed.
    Rise to the need! etc.

    Living the maxims in youth we have read:
    Up with the lark, and as early to bed;
    Hitting the nail that we strike on the head—
    That is the way to succeed.
    Rise to the need! etc.

    Acting whilst other men grumble and plot;
    Making the best that we can of our lot;
    Striking the iron-bar when it is hot—
    That is the way to succeed.
    Rise to the need! etc.

    Upward and onward! unhinder'd in flight,
    Donned with true armour life's battle to fight,
    Sounding the battle-cry—God and the Right!
    That is the way to succeed.
    Rise to the need! etc.


    The talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do well, without a thought of fame.

    – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  14. Old Men's Counsel

    Old men's counsel, rich in deeds,
    Plans, persists, and then succeeds.

    - Amos Russel Wells
    Old Men's Counsel
    by Amos Russel Wells

    Young men's counsel breathes desire,
    Ardent passion, raging fire.

    Old men's counsel utters truth,
    Governing the fires of youth.

    Young men's counsel leaps on high,
    Like a rocket in the sky.

    Old men's counsel will be found
    Firmly fixed upon the ground.

    Young men's counsel bravely dares,
    And a lordly front it wears.

    Old men's counsel, brave yet wise,
    Tests its wings before it flies.

    Young men's counsel looks afar
    Where the shining mountains are.

    Old men's counsel seeks to know
    Safest ways and best to go.

    Young men's counsel, over-hold,
    Grasps a prize, but does not hold.

    Old men's counsel, rich in deeds,
    Plans, persists, and then succeeds.

  15. Saying and Doing

    But remember, if you would succeed.
    It isn't the talk that shows skill, boys,
    But the end of the talking,—the deed!

    - Amos R. Wells
    Saying and Doing
    by Amos Russel Wells

    It isn't the talk that will count, boys,
    But the doing that springs from the talk.
    To what will your walking amount, boys.
    With no goal at the end of your walk?

    What's the use of a ladder set up, boys,
    With the end resting only on air?
    What's the use of a nobly filled cup boys,
    If no one to drink it is there?

    What's the use of a capital plan, boys,
    That never is more than a scheme?
    He makes a poor, scatter brained man boys,
    That begins in his boyhood to dream.

    No; talk on and plan as you will, boys,
    But remember, if you would succeed.
    It isn't the talk that shows skill, boys,
    But the end of the talking,—the deed!

  16. Earnestness

    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

    The hurry of the times affects us so
    In this swift rushing hour, we crowd and press,
    And thrust each other backward, as we go,
    And do not pause to lay sufficient stress
    Upon that good, strong, true word, Earnestness.
    In our impetuous haste, could we but know
    Its full, deep meaning, its vast import, oh,
    Then might we grasp the secret of success!
    In that receding age when men were great,
    The bone, and sinew of their purpose lay
    In this one word. God likes an earnest soul—
    Too earnest to be eager. Soon or late
    It leaves the spent horde breathless by the way,
    And stands serene, triumphant, at the goal.

  17. My Creed

    by Edgar A. Guest

    To live as gently as I can;
    To be, no matter where, a man;
    To take what comes of good or ill
    And cling to faith and honor still;
    To do my best, and let that stand
    The record of my brain and hand;
    And then, should failure come to me,
    Still work and hope for victory.

    To have no secret place wherein
    I stoop unseen to shame or sin;
    To be the same when I'm alone
    As when my every deed is known;
    To live undaunted, unafraid
    Of any step that I have made;
    To be without pretense or sham
    Exactly what men think I am.

    To leave some simple mark behind
    To keep my having lived in mind;
    If enmity to aught I show,
    To be an honest, generous foe,
    To play my little part, nor whine
    That greater honors are not mine.
    This, I believe, is all I need
    For my philosophy and creed.

  18. Overcoming Adversity

  19. Endeavor

    You will never know your strength
    Without a test;
    Just by Better Street at length
    One reaches Best.

    - Anonymous
    by Anonymous

    "If at first you don't succeed,
    Try try again,"—
    That's a manly sort of creed
    For boys and men.

    Trying doesn't cost a cent,
    May win a prize;
    Men that mope in discontent
    Will never rise.

    There is magic in a try,
    Vigor and vim;
    He that trusts in "by and by,"
    Look out for him!

    You will never know your strength
    Without a test;
    Just by Better Street at length
    One reaches Best.

  20. Try Again

    If at first you don't succeed,
    Try, try again;

    - William E. Hickson
    Try, Try Again
    by William E. Hickson

    'T is a lesson you should heed,
    Try, try again;
    If at first you don't succeed,
    Try, try again;
    Then your courage should appear,
    For, if you will persevere,
    You will conquer, never fear;
    Try, try again.

    Once or twice though you should fail,
    Try, try again;
    If you would at last prevail,
    Try, try again;
    If we strive, 'tis no disgrace
    Though we do not win the race;
    What should you do in the case?
    Try, try again.

    If you find your task is hard,
    Try, try again;
    Time will bring you your reward,
    Try, try again.
    All that other folks can do,
    Why, with patience, should not you?
    Only keep this rule in view:
    Try, try again.

    “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

    – Thomas Edison quote on failure

  21. John Curzon's Watch

    Conquer—from things as they are!

    - Amos Russel Wells
    John Curzon's Watch
    by Amos Russel Wells

    Have you heard of John Curzon, of Poland?
    A wonderful artisan, he!
    A watchmaker equalled in no land,
    As you, I am sure, will agree.

    For the Czar of the Russias, to try him,
    Commanded a watch for his fob,
    And bade that his envoy supply him
    With all he might use in the job.

    So the messenger brought some wood chippings,
    Some glass that was smashed in a fall,
    Copper nails and some bits of wire clippings,
    And a cracked china cup; that was all!

    John Curzon, this rubbish receiving,
    Contrived, with no other to aid,—
    it is true, though it seems past believing,—
    A watch that was perfectly made!

    The case—it was formed of the china.
    The works were patched up from the rest.
    it was worthy a rez or rigina;
    And Curzon had won in the test!

    So, my lad, with no money and no land,
    And Fate as severe as the Czar,
    Just think you are Curzon of Poland,
    And conquer—from things as they are!

  22. How the Little Kite Learned to Fly

    by Anonymous

    "I never can do it," the little kite said,
    As he looked at the others high over his head;
    "I know I should fall if I tried to fly."
    "Try," said the big kite; "only try!
    Or I fear you never will learn at all."
    But the little kite said, "I'm afraid I'll fall."

    The big kite nodded: "Ah well, goodby;
    I'm off;" and he rose toward the tranquil sky.
    Then the little kite's paper stirred at the sight,
    And trembling he shook himself free for flight.
    First whirling and frightened, then braver grown,
    Up, up he rose through the air alone,
    Till the big kite looking down could see
    The little one rising steadily.

    Then how the little kite thrilled with pride,
    As he sailed with the big kite side by side!
    While far below he could see the ground,
    And the boys like small spots moving round.
    They rested high in the quiet air,
    And only the birds and the clouds were there.
    "Oh, how happy I am!" the little kite cried,
    "And all because I was brave, and tried."

  23. The Seedling

    by Paul 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.

  24. Triumphalis

    by Bliss Carman

    Soul, art thou sad again
    With the old sadness?
    Thou shalt be glad again
    With a new gladness,
    When April sun and rain
    Mount to the teeming brain
    With the earth madness.

    When from the mould again,
    Spurning disaster,
    Spring shoots unfold again,
    Follow thou faster
    Out of the drear domain
    Of dark, defeat, and pain,
    Praising the Master.

    Hope for thy guide again,
    Ample and splendid;
    Love at thy side again,
    All doubting ended;
    (Ah, by the dragon slain,
    For nothing small or vain
    Michael contended!)

    Thou shalt take heart again,
    No more despairing;
    Play thy great part again,
    Loving and caring.
    Hark, how the gold refrain
    Runs through the iron strain,
    Splendidly daring!

    Thou shalt grow strong again,
    Confident, tender,—
    Battle with wrong again,
    Be truth's defender,—
    Of the immortal train,
    Born to attempt, attain,
    Never surrender!

  25. Success

    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

    As we gaze up life's slope, as we gaze
    In the morn, ere the dewdrops are dry,
    What splendour hangs over the ways,
    What glory gleams there in the sky,
    What pleasures seem waiting us, high
    On the peak of that beauteous slope,
    What rainbow-hued colours of hope,
    As we gaze!

    As we climb up the hill, as we climb,
    Our hearts, our illusions, are rent:
    For Fate, who is spouse of old Time,
    Is jealous of youth and content.
    With brows that are brooding and bent
    She shadows our sunlight of gold,
    And the way grows lonely and cold
    As we climb.

    As we toil on, through trouble and pain,
    There are hands that will shelter and feed;
    But once let us dare to attain
    They will bruise our bare hearts till they bleed.
    'Tis the worst of all crimes to succeed,
    Know this as ye feast on a crust,
    Know this in the darkness and dust,
    Ye who climb.

    As we stand on the heights of success,
    Lo! success seems as sad as defeat!
    Through the lives we may succour and bless
    Alone may its bitter turn sweet!
    And the world lying there at our feet,
    With its cavilling praise and its sneer,
    We must pity, condone, but not hear,
    Where we stand.

    As we live on those heights, we must live
    With the courage and pride of a god;
    For the world, it has nothing to give
    But the scourge of the lash and the rod.
    Our thoughts must be noble and broad,
    Our purpose must challenge men's gaze,
    While we seek not their blame or their praise
    As we live.

  26. Success

    by Bernhardt Paul Holst

    It means a cross for faithful hands to carry,
    In contest fierce, and with tireless brain;
    It means that weary limbs must never tarry,
    When right demands that we should try again.

    At morn may beauty roses bloom in glory,
    At noon may shrink and wither stem and leaves,
    At night may all the world seem cold and hoary,
    And yet should this the spirit vex and grieve?

    You cringe because your hands are bleeding,
    And seek a new and untried field for luck;
    And soon release your grip, when you should be heeding
    The fact that true success depends on pluck.

    If you despair when days are clear and cloudless,
    And dream that dreadful storms are raging overhead,
    An awful ghost will rise before you shroudless,
    And all your early hopes will soon be dead.

    Success will surely come with time and labor,
    If we our aims will carry far and high,
    For we can win the plaudits of our neighbor,
    And reach the goal by perseverance bye and bye.

  27. Keep Going

    by Edgar A. Guest

    When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
    When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,
    When the funds are low and the debts are high,
    And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
    When care is pressing you down a bit,
    Rest if you must—but don’t you quit.

    Life is queer with its twists and turns,
    As every one of us sometimes learns,
    And many a failure turns about
    When he might have won had he stuck it out;
    Don’t give up, though the pace seems slow—
    You may succeed with another blow.

    Often the goal is nearer than
    It seems to a faint and faltering man,
    Often the struggler has given up
    When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
    And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
    How close he was to the golden crown.

    Success is failure turned inside out—
    The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
    And you never can tell how close you are,
    It may be near when it seems afar;
    So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
    It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.

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