National Poetry Month: Success

It’s the Monday after Easter and my thoughts are about Resurrection. I can’t quite describe the healing properties of this current trip to Virginia but I feel ready to resurrect my own life. Part of doing that is defining the life I want compared to the life others would want for me.

The one thing that I want, what I feel we all want, is a successful life. We all have different ideas of what success means to us but mine resembles a poem often misattributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson but it’s really by a woman named Bessie Anderson Stanley. I’m including the real version and the Emerson version.

“Success” — Bessie Anderson Stanley

He has achieved success
who has lived well,
laughed often, and loved much;

who has enjoyed the trust of
pure women,

the respect of intelligent men and
the love of little children;

who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;

who has left the world better than he found it
whether by an improved poppy,
a perfect poem or a rescued soul;

who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty
or failed to express it;

who has always looked for the best in others and
given them the best he had;

whose life was an inspiration;
whose memory a benediction.

“Success” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

To laugh often and love much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the approval of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To give of one’s self;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived…
This is to have succeeded.


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