Poetry Saturday—Answering Him

Edgar A. Guest

“When shall I be a man?” he said,
As I was putting him to bed.
“How many years will have to be
Before Time makes a man of me?
And will I be a man when I
Am grown up big?” I heaved a sigh,
Because it called for careful thought
To give the answer that he sought.

And so I sat him on my knee,
And said to him: “A man you’ll be
When you have learned that honor brings
More joy than all the crowns of kings;
That it is better to be true
To all who know and trust in you
Than all the gold of earth to gain
If winning it shall leave a stain.

“When you can fight for victory sweet,
Yet bravely swallow down defeat,
And cling to hope and keep the right,
Nor use deceit instead of might;
When you are kind and brave and clean,
And fair to all and never mean;
When there is good in all you plan,
That day, my boy, you’ll be a man.

“Some of us learn this truth too late;
That years alone can’t make us great;
That many who are three-score, ten
Have fallen short of being men,
Because in selfishness they fought
And toiled without refining thought;
And whether wrong or whether right
They lived but for their own delight.

“When you have learned that you must hold
Your honor dearer far than gold;
That no ill-gotten wealth or fame
Can pay you for your tarnished name;
And when in all you say or do
Of others you’re considerate, too,
Content to do the best you can
By such a creed, you’ll be a man.” —Edgar A. Guest

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