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Bliss Carman, et al., eds. The World’s Best Poetry. 1904.

VI. Human Experience

The Laborer

William Davis Gallagher (1808–1894)

STAND up—erect! Thou hast the form

And likeness of thy God!—Who more?

A soul as dauntless ’mid the storm

Of daily life, a heart as warm

And pure, as breast e’er wore.

What then?—Thou art as true a man

As moves the human mass among;

As much a part of the great plan

That with creation’s dawn began,

As any of the throng.

Who is thine enemy? The high

In station, or in wealth the chief?

The great, who coldly pass thee by,

With proud step and averted eye?

Nay! nurse not such belief.

If true unto thyself thou wast,

What were the proud one’s scorn to thee?

A feather which thou mightest cast

Aside, as idly as the blast

The light leaf from the tree.

No: uncurbed passions, low desires,

Absence of noble self-respect,

Death, in the breast’s consuming fires,

To that high nature which aspires

Forever, till thus checked;—

These are thine enemies—thy worst:

They chain thee to thy lowly lot;

Thy labor and thy life accursed.

O, stand erect, and from them burst,

And longer suffer not.

Thou art thyself thine enemy:

The great!—what better they than thou?

As theirs is not thy will as free?

Has God with equal favors thee

Neglected to endow?

True, wealth thou hast not—’t is but dust;

Nor place—uncertain as the wind;

But that thou hast, which, with thy crust

And water, may despise the lust

Of both—a noble mind.

With this, and passions under ban,

True faith, and holy trust in God,

Thou art the peer of any man.

Look up then; that thy little span

Of life may be well trod.