Backblock Ballads and Later Verses/Work or Reflection

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Work or Reflection


Now, I always have preserved a certain attitude
    Quite definite in reference to Work—
('Tis futility concealing
That I have the Weary Feeling
    And tendency perennial to shirk)—
Still, I always strive to recognize the principle
    That earnest, steady toil is ever best;
So that, having recognized it,
Not to say idealized it,
    I would fain lay down my pen and take a rest.

For, you understand, to recognize a principle
    Is patently a virtue in itself.
After that you have the option,
Of its strenuous adoption,
    Or the placing of it gently on a shelf.
For myself, I'm forced to own that though my theory's
    A thing of beauty, even in the rough,
Dearth of cash supplies good reasons,
With the passing of the seasons,
    That this simple recognition's not enough.


    For it's Work—Toil—Graft
        It's accomplishment that matters in the end;
    And the act of recognition.
    Even by a politician,
        Has not ever yet been known to make or mend.
    And the man who holds a lamp-post up without much fret or fuss,
    He may "recognize a principle" and feel quite virtuous.

We have read about the lives, in ancient history,
    Of the Doers back in every age and clime;
And their method of reforming
Was reflecting and performing,
    More especially the latter, every time.
But the man who sat and recognized the principles,
    And calmly left accomplishment to Fate.
May have won a reputation,
As a saviour of the nation,
    But his name has been suppressed, at any rate.

This has clearly been the rule since far antiquity:
    Before a thing is done a man must act;
And all progress lay in knowing
What to do, and straightway going
    And just working till reform became a fact.

But to stand on distant nodding terms with principle
    Has been a most unprofitable trick.
You may scan historic pages,
And right down throughout the ages
    Mere reflection never laid a single brick.

    For it's Graft—Toil—Work,
        It's performance that is needed in the land.
    Recognition by the student
   Of the principle is prudent,
        But it never yet has shifted any sand.
    And Hell is full of futile folk who scorned the verb to do,
    Who "recognized the principle" but failed to see it through.