by Edmund Vance Cooke

Edmund Vance Cooke

It's little the difference where you arrive;
The serious question is how you strive.
Are you up to your eyes in a wild romance?
Does your lady lead you a dallying dance?
Do you question if love be fate, or chance?
Oh, the world will ask: "Did he get the girl?"
Though gentleman, coxcomb, clown or churl,
Master or menial of passion's whirl.
But it isn't that. The world will run
Though you never bequeath it daughter or son,
But what, O lover, will come to you
If you be not chivalrous, honest, true?
As far ahead as a man may think,
You can see your little soul shrivel and shrink.
It's not, "Do you win?"
It is, "What have you been?"

Are you stripped for the world-old, world-wide race
For the metal which shines like the sun's own face
Till it dazzles us blind to the mean and base?
Do you say to yourself, "When I have my hoard,
I will give of the plenty which I have stored,
If the Lord bless me, I will bless the Lord"?
And do you forget, as you pile your pelf,
What is the gift you are giving yourself?
Though your mountain of gold may dazzle the day,
Can you climb its height with your feet of clay?
Oh, it isn't the stamp on the metal you win;
It's the stamp on the metal you coin within.
It's not what you give;
It is "What do you live?"

Are you going to sail the polar seas
To the point of ninety-and-north degrees,
Where the very words in your larynx freeze?
Well, the mob may ask "Did he reach the pole?
Though fair, or foul, did he touch the goal?"
But if that be the spirit which stirs your soul,
Off, off from the land below the zeroes;
For you are not of the stuff of heroes.
Ho! many a man can lead men forth
To the fearsome end of the Farthest North,
But can you be faithful for woe or weal
In a land where nothing but self is leal?
Oh, it isn't "How far?"
It is what you are.
And it isn't your lookout where you arrive,
But it's up to you as to how you strive.

Last updated September 22, 2022