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Wisdom Poems

Table of Contents

  1. Old Men's Counsel by Anonymous
  2. Folly Made Left-Handed by Hannah Flagg Gould
  3. I worked for chaff, and earning wheat by Emily Dickinson
  4. King Solomon and the Ants by John Greenleaf Whittier
  5. The King's Ring by Theodore Tilton
  6. True Wisdom by Lydia Howard Sigourney
  7. There's Wisdom in Women by Rupert Brooke
  8. The Doves by Harriet McEwen Kimball
  9. The Hustling Pumpkin Vine by Ed. Blair
  10. Patient with the Living by Margaret E. Sangster
  11. The Longest Day by Lydia Sigourney
  12. The Smith by John Henton Carter
  13. As You Go Through Life by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Where sense is wanting, everything is wanting.

– Ben Franklin
Poor Richard's Almanack
  1. 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.

    Experience is the father of Wisdom.

    – Old Adage
  2. Folly Made Left-Handed

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    Wit was fairly tired of play;
    And the little archer lay
    On a grassy bank, one day,
    By a gurgling river.
    Here, he thought he'd take a nap,
    And to guard them from mishap,
    In his mantle he would wrap
    His golden bow and quiver.

    Scarce a moment had he slept,
    Ere upon his finger stepped
    Some one, who was no adept
    In the art of creeping.
    Wit was ever quick to feel,
    Soon he knew the heavy heel—
    Folly came his bow to steal,
    While he thought him sleeping.

    He arose, and, "now," said he,
    "Let my bow and arrows be,
    Till their use you learn of me,
    Folly, I beseech you!
    But, if you would know my art,
    And be skilful with the dart,
    Let's a moment stand apart,
    So that I may teach you."

    Folly moved a pace or two;
    Wit took aim, and quickly drew—
    "Whiz!" the arrow went, and flew,
    Fastening in his shoulder.
    "Oh!" cried Folly, "Oh! I'm dead!
    Wounded both in heart and head!"
    "You will live," Wit smiling said,
    "To be ages older.

    "Banish every vain alarm,
    You receive no other harm
    Than a useless, palsied arm,
    For an hour of fooling.
    Hence, of that right hand bereft,
    Folly, you must use your left,
    A memento of your theft,
    And my timely schooling!"

    Wisdom saw the war begin
    'Twixt the two so near akin,
    And she would, by stepping in,
    Fain have made them wiser.
    But, she was repelled by both,
    Who, alike incensed and loth
    To be tutored, took an oath
    Ever to despise her.

    Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

    – Proverbs 9:8
    The Bible, ESV
  3. I worked for chaff, and earning wheat

    Wisdom is more becoming viewed
    At distance than at hand.

    – Emily Dickinson
    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.

  4. King Solomon and the Ants

    by John Greenleaf Whittier

    Out from Jerusalem
    The king rode with his great
    War chiefs and lords of state,
    And Sheba's queen with them.

    Proud in the Syrian sun,
    In gold and purple sheen,
    The dusky Ethiop queen
    Smiled on King Solomon.

    Wisest of men, he knew
    The languages of all
    The creatures great or small
    That trod the earth or flew.

    Across an ant-hill led
    The king's path, and he heard
    Its small folk, and their word
    He thus interpreted:

    "Here comes the king men greet
    As wise and good and just,
    To crush us in the dust
    Under his heedless feet."

    The great king bowed his head,
    And saw the wide surprise
    Of the Queen of Sheba's eyes
    As he told her what they said.

    "O king!" she whispered sweet,
    "Too happy fate have they
    Who perish in thy way
    Beneath thy gracious feet!

    "Thou of the God-lent crown,
    Shall these vile creatures dare
    Murmur against thee where
    The knees of kings kneel down?"

    "Nay," Solomon replied,
    "The wise and strong should seek
    The welfare of the weak;"
    And turned his horse aside.

    His train, with quick alarm,
    Curved with their leader round
    The ant-hill's peopled mound,
    And left it free from harm.

    The jeweled head bent low;
    "O king!" she said, "henceforth
    The secret of thy worth
    And wisdom well I know.

    "Happy must be the State
    Whose ruler heedeth more
    The murmurs of the poor
    Than flatteries of the great."

  5. The King's Ring

    Fit for every change and chance.
    Solemn words; and these are they:
    "Even this shall pass away."

    – Theodore Tilton
    The King's Ring
    by Theodore Tilton

    Once in Persia reigned a king
    Who upon his signet ring
    Graved a maxim true and wise
    Which, if held before his eyes,
    Gave him counsel at a glance
    Fit for every change and chance.
    Solemn words; and these are they:
    "Even this shall pass away."

    Trains of camels through the sand
    Brought him gems from Samarcand,
    Fleets of galleys through the seas
    Brought him pearls to match with these;
    But he counted not his gain—
    Treasurer of the mine and main,
    "What is wealth?" the king would say;
    "Even this shall pass away."

    In the revels of his court
    At the zenith of the sport,
    When the palms of all his guests
    Burned with clapping at his jests,
    He, amid his figs and wine,
    Cried: "O loving friends of mine!
    Pleasures come, but not to stay,
    Even this shall pass away."

    Fighting on a furious field
    Once a javelin pierced his shield;
    Soldiers with loud lament
    Bore him bleeding to his tent,
    Groaning with his tortured side.
    "Pain is hard to bear," he cried;
    "But with patience day by day,
    Even this shall pass away."

    Struck with palsy, sere and old,
    Waiting at the gates of gold,
    Spake he with his dying breath:
    "Life is done, but what is death?"
    Then, in answer to the king,
    Fell a sunbeam on his ring,
    Showing by a heavenly ray:
    "Even this shall pass away."

  6. True Wisdom

    For while we trifle the light sand steals on,
    Leaving the hour-glass empty. So thy life
    Glideth away. Stamp wisdom on its hours.

    – Lydia Howard Sigourney
    True Wisdom
    by Lydia Howard Sigourney

    Why break the limits of permitted thought
    To revel in Elysium? thou who bear'st
    Still the stern yoke of this unresting life,
    Its toils, its hazards, and its fears of change?
    Why hang thy frostwork wreath on Fancy's brow,
    When Labour warns thee to thy daily task,
    And Faith doth bid thee gird thyself to run
    A faithful journey to the gate of Heaven?

    Up, 'tis no dreaming-time! awake! awake!
    For He who sits on the High Judge's seat
    Doth in his record note each wasted hour,
    Each idle word. Take heed thy shrinking soul
    Find not their weight too heavy when it stands
    At that dread bar from whence is no appeal.
    For while we trifle the light sand steals on,
    Leaving the hour-glass empty. So thy life
    Glideth away. Stamp wisdom on its hours.

    So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

    – Psalm 90:12
    The Bible, KJV
  7. Heaven

    by Rupert Brooke

    "Oh love is fair, and love is rare;" my dear one she said,
    "But love goes lightly over." I bowed her foolish head,
    And kissed her hair and laughed at her. Such a child was she;
    So new to love, so true to love, and she spoke so bitterly.

    But there's wisdom in women, of more than they have known,
    And thoughts go blowing through them, are wiser than their own,
    Or how should my dear one, being ignorant and young,
    Have cried on love so bitterly, with so true a tongue?

  8. The Doves

    by Harriet McEwen Kimball

    Pretty doves, so blithely ranging
    Up and down the street;
    Glossy throats all bright hues changing
    Little scarlet feet!

    Pretty doves! among the daisies
    They should coo and flit!
    All these toilsome, noisy places
    Seem for them unfit.

    Yet amidst our human plodding,
    They must love to be;
    With their little heads a-nodding,
    Busier than we.

    Close to hoof and wheel they hover,
    Glancing right and left,
    Sure some treasure to discover;
    Rapid, shy, and deft.

    Friendliest of feathered creatures,
    In their timid guise;
    Wisdom’s little silent teachers,
    Praying us be wise.

    Fluttering at footsteps careless,
    Danger swift to flee,
    Lowly, trusting, faithful, fearless,—
    Oh, that such were we!

    In the world and yet not of it,
    Ready to take wing,—
    By this lesson could we profit
    It were everything!

    16Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

    – Matthew 10:16
  9. The Hustling Pumpkin Vine

    by Ed. Blair

    Say boy, don't go a mopin' 'round 'n' talkin' in a whine,
    But go out in the field and view the hustling pumpkin vine.
    It has the kind o' stuff in it that's needed, boy, in you,
    A kind o' get there quality thet most folks say will do.

    The weeds may grow around it but the pumpkin vine don't stop,
    It shows it's there fer business an' it climbs right out on top.
    An' if it strikes a big stone fence or ditch that may be wide,
    It jes' lines out 'n strings the pumpkins on the other side.

    So boy, don't let the weeds or ditches drive you from your way,
    But go ahead and get on top—do something every day.
    An' if things look discouraging, don't ever mope or whine,
    But go and learn a lesson from the hustling pumpkin vine.

  10. Patient with the Living

    by Margaret E. Sangster

    Sweet friend, when thou and I are gone
    Beyond earth's weary labor,
    When small shall be our need of grace
    From comrade or from neighbor,
    Past all the strife, the toil, the care,
    And done with all the sighing,
    What tender ruth shall we have gained,
    Alas, by simply dying!

    Then lips too chary for their praise
    Will tell our merits over,
    And eyes too swift our fault to see
    Shall no defect discover.
    Then hands that would not lift a stone
    Where tones were thick to cumber
    Our steep hill path, will scatter flower
    Above our pillowed slumber.

    Sweet friend, perchance both thou and I,
    Ere love is past forgiving,
    Should take the earnest lesson home—
    Be patient with the living.
    To-day's repressed rebuke may save
    Our blinding tears to-morrow;
    Then patience, e'en when keenest edge
    May whet a nameless sorrow.

    'Tis easy to be gentle when
    Death's silence shames our clamor,
    And easy to discern the best
    Through memory's mystic glamour;
    But wise it were for thee and me,
    Ere love is past forgiving,
    To take the tender lesson home—
    Be patient with the living.

  11. The Longest Day

    by Lydia Sigourney

    From us, if every fleeting hour,
    Improvement's boon may ask,
    The longest day must surely claim,
    The most important task.

    But since the longest day must end,
    The happiest life decay,
    Let wisdom's hand, and wisdom's voice,
    Direct our youthful way.

    And when we rise, let morning's eye
    Convey the lesson sweet,
    And ere we sleep, an angel's sigh
    The sacred rule repeat:

    Patient to render good to all,
    Within our bounded sphere,
    The active deed, the grateful word,
    The sympathizing tear:

    To raise the heart to Him who gives
    Our path with hope to shine,
    Meekly receive the cup of joy,
    Or tranquilly resign:

    To let no fear disturb the breast,
    No doubt obscure our sky,
    Since Virtue cannot live unblest,
    Or unrewarded die.

  12. The Smith

    by John Henton Carter

    Once a worker in iron stood at his anvil and wrought,
    Proud to think that his labor brought the reward that he sought;
    Singing, with no thought of sorrow, lo! he hammered away,
    Till the king and his courtiers paused at the smithy one day.

    Marked he the man and metal, brought from the furnace aglow;
    Watched he the sparks that scattered, saw he it yield to the blow,
    Then said he to his courtiers, "Note you the smith, and then learn;
    Mind shall rule over matter, bring it to service in turn.

    "Both are the same in nature, hammer and slug are but one,
    And yet one serves the other, obeying, though all undone.
    Take you then heed in the future, be on the battle field—
    Like to the blacksmith's hammer, compelling all else to yield."

    Then they went forth to conquer; the king and his valiant crew
    Stood like a wall, undaunted, like their bright blades tempered, too—
    Smote as the smith had smitten, every blow made to tell,
    Driving the foe before them. Then said the king, "It is well."

    This is the lesson the smith taught to the world with his blow:—
    "Lo! mind shall rule all matter; man shall continue to grow;
    All nature's forces shall serve him—serve him and not ask why—
    Until he gain his birthright, lord of all under the sky."

  13. As You Go Through Life

    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

    Don't look for the flaws as you go through life;
    And even when you find them,
    It is wise and kind to be somewhat blind,
    And look for the virtue behind them;
    For the cloudiest night has a hint of light
    Somewhere in its shadows hiding:
    It's better by far to hunt for a star,
    Than the spots on the sun abiding.

    The current of life runs ever away
    To the bosom of God's great ocean.
    Don't set your force 'gainst the river's course,
    And think to alter its motion.
    Don't waste a curse on the universe,
    Remember, it lived before you:
    Don't butt at the storm with your puny form,
    But bend and let it go o'er you.

    The world will never adjust itself
    To suit your whims to the letter,
    Some things must go wrong, your whole life long,
    And the sooner you know it the better.
    It is folly to fight with the Infinite,
    And go under at last in the wrestle,
    The wiser man shapes into God's plan,
    As water shapes into a vessel.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all they that do his commandments.

– Psalm 111:10a

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