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Poems About Work

Table of Contents

  1. The Village Blacksmith by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  2. Work While You Work by M. A. Stodart
  3. The Best Firm by Walter G. Doty
  4. A Question by Anonymous
  5. The Cheery Chewink by Anonymous
  6. The Solitary Reaper by William Wordsworth
  7. Hunt a Busy Man by Anonymous
  8. Ten New Committees by Anonymous
  9. I worked for chaff, and earning wheat by Emily Dickinson
  10. Something Left Undone by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  11. Perseverance by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  12. The Builders by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  13. Mystery by Dudley Hughes Davis
  14. A Bit of Pottery by Anonymous
  15. Labor of Love by Kate Louise Wheeler
  16. Life's Knitting-Work by Harriet Selden Baker


Honest labor bears a lovely face.

– Thomas Dekker
Patient Grissel, Act I. Sc. 1
  1. The Village Blacksmith

    His brow is wet with honest sweat,
    He earns whate'er he can,
    And looks the whole world in the face,
    For he owes not any man.

    - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    The Village Blacksmith
    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    Under a spreading chestnut-tree
    The village smithy stands;
    The smith, a mighty man is he,
    With large and sinewy hands;
    And the muscles of his brawny arms
    Are strong as iron bands.

    His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
    His face is like the tan;
    His brow is wet with honest sweat,
    He earns whate'er he can,
    And looks the whole world in the face,
    For he owes not any man.

    Week in, week out, from morn till night,
    You can hear his bellows blow;
    You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
    With measured beat and slow,
    Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
    When the evening sun is low.

    And children coming home from school
    Look in at the open door;
    They love to see the flaming forge,
    And hear the bellows roar,
    And catch the burning sparks that fly
    Like chaff from a threshing-floor.

    He goes on Sunday to the church,
    And sits among his boys;
    He hears the parson pray and preach,
    He hears his daughter's voice,
    Singing in the village choir,
    And it makes his heart rejoice.

    It sounds to him like her mother's voice,
    Singing in Paradise!
    He needs must think of her once more,
    How in the grave she lies;
    And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
    A tear out of his eyes.

    Toiling,—rejoicing,—sorrowing,
    Onward through life he goes;
    Each morning sees some task begin,
    Each evening sees it close
    Something attempted, something done,
    Has earned a night's repose.

    Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
    For the lesson thou hast taught!
    Thus at the flaming forge of life
    Our fortunes must be wrought;
    Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
    Each burning deed and thought.

  2. Work While You Work

    by M. A. Stodart

    Work while you work,
    Play while you play,
    That is the way
    To be cheerful and gay.

    All that you do,
    Do with your might;
    Things done by halves
    Are never done right.

    One thing each time,
    And that done well,
    Is a very good rule,
    As wise men tell.

    Moments are useless,
    Trifled away;
    So work while you work,
    And play while you play.

  3. The Best Firm

    by Walter G. Doty

    A pretty good firm is "Watch & Waite,"
    And another is "Attit, Early & Layte;"
    And still another is "Doo & Dairet;"
    But the best is probably "Grinn & Barrett."

  4. A Question

    by Anonymous

    When work is harassing
    And driving you mad,
    And not enough patience
    And strength to be had,
    I'll give you a medicine
    Fairly sublime:
    Just get a bottle of
    "Oneatatime."

    Take "Oneatatime," brother.
    Soon you will find
    Quiet serenity
    Filling your mind;
    Heaps of accomplishment
    Swiftly will climb,
    Moved by the magic of
    "Oneatatime."

  5. The Cheery Chewink

    A worker's challenge bold and free,
    The alto call of industry...
    He shouts his slogan clear and strong,
    And glorifies his work with song.

    - Amos Russel Wells
    The Cheery Chewink
    by Amos Russel Wells

    "Chewink! Chewink!" a sprightly sound
    Ringing across the bushy ground,
    A worker's challenge bold and free,
    The alto call of industry.

    Deep in the underbrush is heard
    The scratching of the busy bird;
    Behold, with energetic heaves,
    Both feet at once, he flings the leaves.

    But ever, pausing on the brink
    Of new descent—Chewink! Chewink!—
    He shouts his slogan clear and strong,
    And glorifies his work with song.

    No dreary drudgery for him,
    A very dandy happy and trim,
    With black and white and ruddy brown,
    The smartest gentleman in town!

    Ah, brother toilers, bent and worn
    Beneath your burdens all forlorn,
    Your work's a martyrdom, you think?
    Just hear that bird: "Chewink! Chewink!"

  6. The Solitary Reaper

    by William Wordsworth

    Behold her, single in the field,
    Yon solitary Highland Lass!
    Reaping and singing by herself;
    Stop here, or gently pass!
    Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
    And sings a melancholy strain;
    O listen! for the Vale profound
    Is overflowing with the sound.

    No Nightingale did ever chaunt
    More welcome notes to weary bands
    Of Travellers in some shady haunt,
    Among Arabian sands:
    A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard
    In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
    Breaking the silence of the seas
    Among the farthest Hebrides.

    Will no one tell me what she sings?
    Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
    For old, unhappy, far-off things,
    And battles long ago:
    Or is it some more humble lay,
    Familiar matter of to-day?
    Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
    That has been, and may be again!

    Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang
    As if her song could have no ending;
    I saw her singing at her work,
    And o'er the sickle bending;—
    I listened, motionless and still;
    And, as I mounted up the hill,
    The music in my heart I bore,
    Long after it was heard no more.

  7. Hunt a Busy Man

    by Anonymous

    "If you've a job that you want done,"
    So runs a saying grim,
    "Just find the busiest man you can,
    And give the task to him."

    Of all the wicked schemes devised
    By laziness and fat,
    The wickedest, the cruelest,
    The shamefulest, is that!

    The man who says that wicked thing
    Some day will surely go
    To most appropriate punishment
    Administered below.

    Upon his groaning form bestowed,
    A weight of iron shall rest,
    And ever with increasing loads
    His body shall be pressed.

    "Now here's another little weight,"
    The fiends will say with vim;
    "And here's an over-loaded man;
    So lay the weight on him."

  8. Ten New Committees

    by Amos Russel Wells

    Ten new committees, vigorous and fine;
    One was too ambitious, and then there were nine.

    Nine new committees, zealous and elate;
    One got offended, and then there were eight.

    Eight new committees, laboring for heaven;
    One got to shirking, and then there were seven.

    Seven new committees, "putting in best licks";
    One found it tedious, and then there were six.

    Six new committees, looking all alive;
    One went to sleep, and then there were five.

    Five new committees, keeping up their score;
    One became "too busy," and then there were four.

    Four new committees, bright as bright could be;
    One became careless, and then there were three.

    Three new committees, hunting things to do;
    One thought it couldn't, and then there were two.

    Two new committees, proud of good things done;
    One grew "so tired," and then there was one.

    One new committee, holding on for fun;
    Fun got exhausted, and there was—none.

  9. I worked for chaff, and earning wheat

    by Emily Dickinson

    I worked for chaff, and earning wheat
    Was haughty and betrayed.
    What right had fields to arbitrate
    In matters ratified?

    I tasted wheat, — and hated chaff,
    And thanked the ample friend;
    Wisdom is more becoming viewed
    At distance than at hand.

  10. Something Left Undone

    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    Labor with what zeal we will,
    Something still remains undone,
    Something uncompleted still
    Waits the rising of the sun.
    By the bedside, on the stair,
    At the threshold, near the gates,
    With its menace or its prayer,
    Like a mendicant it waits;
    Waits, and will not go away;
    Waits, and will not be gainsaid;
    By the cares of yesterday
    Each to-day is heavier made;
    Till at length the burden seems
    Greater than our strength can bear,
    Heavy as the weight of dreams,
    Pressing on us everywhere.
    And we stand from day to day,
    Like the dwarfs of times gone by,
    Who, as Northern legends say,
    On their shoulders held the sky.

  11. Perseverance

    Life's field will yield as we make it
    A harvest of thorns or of flowers.

    - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
    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

  12. The Builders

    All are architects of Fate,
    Working in these walls of Time;

    - The Builders
    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    All are architects of Fate,
    Working in these walls of Time;
    Some with massive deeds and great,
    Some with ornaments of rhyme.

    Nothing useless is, or low;
    Each thing in its place is best;
    And what seems but idle show
    Strengthens and supports the rest.

    For the structure that we raise,
    Time is with materials filled;
    Our to-days and yesterdays
    Are the blocks with which we build.

    Truly shape and fashion these;
    Leave no yawning gaps between;
    Think not, because no man sees,
    Such things will remain unseen.

    In the elder days of Art,
    Builders wrought with greatest care
    Each minute and unseen part;
    For the Gods see everywhere.

    Let us do our work as well,
    Both the unseen and the seen;
    Make the house, where Gods may dwell,
    Beautiful, entire, and clean.

    Else our lives are incomplete,
    Standing in these walls of Time,
    Broken stairways, where the feet
    Stumble as they seek to climb.

    Build to-day, then, strong and sure,
    With a firm and ample base;
    And ascending and secure
    Shall to-morrow find its place.

    Thus alone can we attain
    To those turrets, where the eye
    Sees the world as one vast plain,
    And one boundless reach of sky.


    By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care.

    – 1 Corinthians 3:10
    The Bible, NIV

    Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,

    – Colossians 3:23
    The Bible, NIV
  13. Mystery

    by Dudley Hughes Davis

    A little brook, with beauties grand,
    Comes rippling from a mountain spring,
    And winds its way o'er stone and sand
    Through woods where birds melodious sing.

    Through time unknown to days of man,
    This murmuring stream has found its way,
    And cut a ravine through the land,
    A link in nature's grand display.

    And interwoven timber bends
    In wreathy arches o'er the walls,
    Through which this little brook descends,
    To make its leap down o'er the falls.

    It rushes down its winding stair,
    A bold and sparkling silvery sheet;
    It sends its mist into the air,
    And forms a rainbow at its feet.

    By little streams the chasm cliff
    Is worn to grains of drifting sand,
    And angry waters foam and drift
    Through wonderous wall not made by hand.

    And man looks back through time unknown
    To date the wonderous streamlet hand,
    Which sculptured chasm wall of stone,
    And wore its chips to grains of sand.

    But could the work a life had done
    Be seen by eves of mortal man,
    The sands that crumble one by one
    Could equal not the busy hand.

    Though life is short man, leaves the stage,
    As though his wonderous work was done,
    Another man, another age,
    Proves that his work has just begun.

    So like the mystic cataract stream
    Which flows a myriad years through sand,
    The world's adrift by light and stream,
    The work of ages, brain and hand.

  14. A Bit of Pottery

    by Anonymous

    The potter stood at his daily work,
    One patient foot on the ground,
    The other with never-slacking speed.
    Turning his swift wheel round.
    Silent we stood beside him there
    Watching the restless knee,
    Till my friend said low, in pitying voice,
    “How tired his foot must be!”

    The potter never paused in his work,
    Shaping the wondrous thing;
    ’Twas only a common flower-pot,
    But perfect in fashioning.
    Slowly he raised his patient eyes,
    With homely truth inspired:
    “No, marm, it isn’t the foot that kicks—
    The one that stands gets tired.”

  15. All Have Work to Do

    by R. P. S.

    A child went wandering through a wood
    Upon a summer day;
    She hoped to meet some pretty thing
    To join her in her play.

    The cloudless sky above was blue,
    The grass beneath was green,
    And all around were lovely flowers,
    The brightest ever seen.

    A honey-bee went humming by—
    “Stay, little bee!” she cried,
    “Oh, do come back and play with me.”
    And thus the bee replied:

    “I cannot stay, I must away,
    And gather in my store,
    For winter drear will soon be here,
    When I can work no more.”

    She heard a pigeon cooing soft
    High in the bough above—
    “Come down, and play a while with me,
    My pretty, gentle dove.”

    “I cannot come and play with thee,
    For I must guard my nest,
    And keep my sleeping children war
    Beneath my downy breast."

    She saw a squirrel gathering nuts
    Upon a tall beech tree—
    “I love to see you bound and leap;
    Come down and play with me.”

    “I dare not play, I must away,
    And quickly homeward hie;
    Were I to stay, my little ones
    For want of food must die.”

    She came unto a stream that leaped
    Between its rocky banks—
    “Stay, pretty stream, and play with me,
    And you shall have my thanks.”

    The stream replied, while in the pool
    A moment it stood still,
    “I cannot play, I must away
    And drive the village mill.”

    The child sat down upon a stone,
    And hung her little head:
    She wept a while, and sobbed a while,
    Then to herself she said:
    “The stream, the squirrel, dove and bee
    Have all got work to do;
    I must not play my hours away—
    I must be busy too.”

  16. Labor of Love

    by Kate Louise Wheeler

    He planted a tree, on the old home land,
    Where the summer sunlight stayed,
    Tho' he knew full well he should never stand
    'Neath it's fruit and pleasing shade.

    He penciled a book, in his life's last year,
    When the inspiration came,
    Tho' he knew his heart it could never cheer
    With it's gold and certain fame.

    But the leaves of his tree grew, day by day,
    While it's fruit the hungry fed;
    And the fruit of his book will ever stay
    While it's leaves are daily read.

  17. Life's Knitting-Work

    by Harriet Selden Baker

    My knitting-work I laid aside
    When the week was done;
    But I took it up again
    With Monday's rising sun.

    Stitch by stitch, hour by hour,
    Through the live-long day,
    Do I go the many rounds
    Of life's busy way.

    But I find that I oft drop
    Stitches, here and there,
    From my tired hands that are
    Burdened so with care.

    But each stitch I patiently
    Through the meshes draw:
    Till my work is once again
    Whole, without a flaw!

    O that when my life shall close,
    And all its acts laid bare,
    It might all be found complete—
    Perfect everywhere,—

    A well-rounded life that should
    Receive our Lord's bequest:
    "Well done, Faithful, enter in
    To my promised rest!"