Poems? Really? Not Military enough? Not Masculine enough? If your first thought of poetry was along the “roses are red, violets are blue…” line you have come to the wrong place. The five poems below are Masculine, powerful, and will cause you to ponder life. The only poem on this list that I have not memorized, or tried to memorize is the fourth one; Ulysses.
Theodore Roosevelt: Man in the Arena & Doctrine of the Strenuous Life
If you read two poems and stop these are the two to read. Theodore Roosevelt, a adventurer, Rough Rider, president, and at 60 years old a WW I volunteer. Both of his poems can be easily memorized and referenced for many a motivational conversation.
Man in the Arena:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Doctrine of the Strenuous Life
I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.
“If-” by Rudyard Kipling
Whenever I read this poem I envision an older man speaking to a young boy discussing the conditions for being a man. The poem offers a series of challenging “ifs”. If you can strive to meet these challenges you will one day be a “Man my son!”
If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken, Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
“Invictus” by William Ernest Henley
The first poem I memorized while a plebe (freshman) at the Naval Academy. “ I am the Captain of my fate….” was my goto line when things got tough and I wanted to quit and throw in the towel.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul.
“Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson
This is one of the most famous poems in the english language. The poem begins at the end of Odysseus life and depicts the desire of a man wanting to set out on new adventures and see new sights, even as his life is passing into twilight. The poem’s memorable phrases will encourage even the most settled soldier, sailor or airman to strike out and start something new.
It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades Vext the dim sea: I am become a name; For always roaming with a hungry heart Much have I seen and known; cities of men And manners, climates, councils, governments, Myself not least, but honour’d of them all; And drunk delight of battle with my peers, Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy. I am a part of all that I have met; Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades For ever and forever when I move. How dull it is to pause, to make an end, To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use! As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life Were all too little, and of one to me Little remains: but every hour is saved From that eternal silence, something more, A bringer of new things; and vile it were For some three suns to store and hoard myself, And this gray spirit yearning in desire To follow knowledge like a sinking star, Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This is my son, mine own Telemachus, To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,— Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil This labour, by slow prudence to make mild A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees Subdue them to the useful and the good. Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere Of common duties, decent not to fail In offices of tenderness, and pay Meet adoration to my household gods, When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail: There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners, Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me— That ever with a frolic welcome took The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old; Old age hath yet his honour and his toil; Death closes all: but something ere the end, Some work of noble note, may yet be done, Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods. The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks: The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends, ‘T is not too late to seek a newer world. Push off, and sitting well in order smite The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths Of all the western stars, until I die. It may be that the gulfs will wash us down: It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles, And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’ We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
“It’s the Soldier”
Reading this poem makes you think of an appreciate the freedoms taken for granted every day, and the men that fight for that freedom.
A protest raged on a courthouse lawn,
Round a makeshift stage they charged on,
Fifteen hundred or more they say,
Had come to burn a Flag that day.
A boy held up the folded Flag,
Cursed it, and called it a dirty rag.
An OLD MAN pushed through the angry crowd,
With a rusty shotgun shouldered proud.
His uniform jacket was old and tight,
He had polished each button, shiny and bright.
He crossed that stage with a soldier’s grace,
Until he and the boy stood face to face.
“FREEDOM OF SPEECH”, the OLD MAN said,
“Is worth dying for, good men are dead,
So you can stand on this courthouse lawn,
And talk us down from dusk to dawn,
But before any Flag gets burned today,
This OLD MAN IS GOING TO HAVE HIS SAY!!
My father died on a foreign shore,
In a war they said would end all war.
But Tommy and I wasn’t even full grown,
Before we fought in a war of our own.
And Tommy died on Iwo Jima’s beach,
In the shadow of a hill he couldn’t quite reach
Where five good men raised this Flag so high,
That the WHOLE WORLD COULD SEE IT FLY.
I got this bum leg that I still drag,
Fighting for this same old Flag.
Now there’s but one shot in this old gun,
So now it’s time to decide which one,
Which one of you will follow our lead,
To stand and die for what you believe?
For as sure as there is a rising sun,
You’ll burn before this Flag burns, son.
Now this riot never came to pass.
The crowd got quiet and that can of gas,
Got set aside as they walked away
To talk about what they had heard this day.
And the boy who had called it a “dirty rag”,
Handed the OLD SOLDIER the folded Flag.
So the battle of the Flag this day was won
By a tired OLD SOLDIER with a rusty gun,
Who for one last time, had to show to some,
THIS FLAG MAY FADE, YET THESE COLORS DON’T RUN
By: Charles M. Province
A HERO’S WELCOME
For the ones we have lost
Time to come home dear brother
Your tour of duty through
You’ve given as much as anyone
Could be expected to do
Just a few steps further
The smoke will start to clear
Others here will guide you
You have no need of fear
You have not failed your brothers
You clearly gave it all
And through your selfless actions
Others will hear the call
So take your place of honor
Among those who have gone before
And know you will be remembered
For now and evermore
by Robert Longley