Sweet Are the Uses of Adversity

This historical moment presents challenges to all of us.  For many, the economic implications will mean a significant change in the course of their lives.  Apprehension and despair loom.

For some, this comes in addition to the suffering that comes with being a human being.  Struggle, desire, addiction, abuse, frustration–we wonder sometimes why such things must happen to us.  And sometimes, as Pema Chodron tells us, sometimes we find ourselves drawn to the very sources of our own suffering.

I am a teacher of literature, and I adore poetry.  That said, I have never felt particularly drawn to the Fireside Poet John Greenleaf Whittier.  I have admired, however, his sincerity and his humanity.  His personal story inspires.

As much as the poem below has become a cliche, as much as sentimentalists would threaten by their continual trotting out of it to turn it into a collection of platitudes, the trials of life can wipe away the waxy gloss and reveal the the profound message of this piece.

I hope it restores strength to any whose spirits are heavy.


Don’t Quit
John Greenleaf Whittier

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is strange with its twists and turns
As every one of us sometimes learns
And many a failure comes about
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow—
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out—
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell just how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

2 thoughts on “Sweet Are the Uses of Adversity

  1. Oh, wow. This is lovely – I am so happy to read this. Thank you for a timely post and a welcomed invitation to pace ourselves for the long run, or the sprint for the strong finish; whichever it may turn out to be and just find our gumption. We talk about stamina all the time to our kids: stamina to work, stamina for reading, stamina in writing. Well, now it’s time for us to walk the walk and reach in and access that stamina for life – and it is surely there. Thank you for the reminder.

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