“To Strive , To Seek, To Find And Not to Yield”

August 6 is the birthday of English poet Alfred Tennyson whose ending line from Ulysess, the favorite poem of California’s Capitol, won a competition last year in England called, “Winning Words.”

The phrase is engraved on a wall in Olympic Village.

Tennyson also provided President Harry Truman with his favorite poem, several stanzas of “Locksley Hall,” a handwritten copy of which Truman kept in his wallet from the time he graduated from high school. He estimated he recopied the text 30 to 40 times in his life.

“For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain’d a ghastly dew
From the nations’ airy navies grappling in the central blue;
Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro’ the thunder-storm;
Till the war-drum throbb’d no longer, and the battle-flags were furl’d
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.
There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.”

It little profits that an idle king, 
By this still hearth, among these barren crags, 
Matched 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 enjoyed 
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those 
that loved me, and alone; on shore, and when 
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades 
Vexed 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 honored of them all— 
And drunk delight of battle with my peers, 
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy. 
I am part of all that I have met; 
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough 
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades 
Forever and forever when I move. 
How dull it is to pause, to make an end. 
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use! 
As though 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, my own Telemachus, 
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle— 
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill 
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild 
A rugged people, and through soft degrees 
Subdue them to the useful and the good. 
Most blameless is he, centered 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 toiled, 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 honor 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. 
‘Tis 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 that we shall touch the Happy Isles, 
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew. 
Though much is taken, much abides; and though 
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. 


Filed under: Overheard

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