The following is a poem I first encountered some 15 years ago, a photocopy of a newspaper clipping taped to the wall of a library. Over the years it has popped into mind from time to time but I have never been able to find it – until now, in the age of digital scanning and text recognition.
The author is Richard Wightman who evidently wrote several times for Success Magazine in the early 1900’s (you can find more of his writings via the Library of Congress). Wightman was an interesting fellow. In 1913 he was married to Patricia Margaret Street by a Unitarian pastor, Rev. Loren MacDonald. Wightman was a Christian, though both his writings and his choice of a Unitarian pastor show him to be somewhat progressive, especially for his time. He was also attracted to the profound more than the frivolous. For instance, Richard and Patricia were married at the grave site of Ralph Waldo Emerson, their ceremony held in Sleepy Hollow cemetery as a show of their mutual appreciation for the poet.
Below is one of Wightman’s writings, the poem I first saw 15 years ago. I found a copy in the April 9, 1910 edition of The Deseret News, a Utah newspaper. It was originally printed in Success Magazine.
To lift, athirst, the brimming Glass of life and drain it, dregs and all, with smack of smiling lip and slap of knee;
To bend above the Stream of Trade and wrest from it my gold, clean-handed, zestfully, as one who takes equivalents – not more – for what he gives;
To hear, attent, the silent cry of those who lack, dividing food and faggots and the couraged word;
To look well to my sowing, knowing sure that each small seed, by law Immutable, begets its kind – and multiplied at that;
To shrine my Woman high and touch her flesh with prayer as well as passion;
To find within the eyes of children that fine light which guides the man to simpler ways again and nestles him within the arms of this old earth’s vast motherhood;
To search for peace within the lily-bell or ‘neath the verdant moss by forest ways, and, searching, find a fuller mere than e’er was dreamed or guessed;
To hail my friend with frankness-palm to palm and eye to eye, with merge of heart and hope until we twain are one and gianted for battle.
To think things out in my own way and blast a doctrine, when it bars my path, with reverent ruthlessness.
To take my God wherever I may find him – in the meetinghouse or in the meadow, or where the liners cleave the crests and fling their foam afar
To know that Jesus lived for me to show me how to live, and died for me to show me how to die, should they assail my truth as they did his;
To hold that love is lawful, all of it, or else it be not love, but something less;
That, sirs, seems good to me and right and fair, and by the grace of each day’s sun, and verve of starry nights, I face my years with glee as one who dies not, but lives always.
By Richard Wightman