The Book of Virtues - Excerpts

C o m p e n s a t i o n

By: Theodosia Garrison

Teddy Roosevelt said that “far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory or defeat.” This poem reminds us as well that a mighty heart reaches high.

Because I craved a gift too great
For any prayer of mine to bring.
Today with empty hands I go;
Yet must my heart rejoice to know
I did not ask a lesser thing.

Because the goal I sought lay far
In cloud-hid heights, today my soul
Goes unaccompanied of its own;
Yet this shall comfort me alone,
I did not seek a nearer goal.

O gift ungained, O goal unwon!
Still I am glad, remembering this,
For all I go unsatified,
I have kept faith with joy denied,
Nor cheated life with cheaper bliss.

Source: The Book of Virtues.
By: William J. Bennett, Chapter 6, “ Courage,” pgs. 474-475.

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C A N ‘ T

Edgar Guest

“Can’t is a favorite word or some children... Here is the case against it.

Can’t is the worst word that is written or spoken;
Doing more harm here than slander or lies;
On it is many a strong spirit broken,
And with it many a good purpose dies.
It springs from the lips of the thoughtless each morning
And robs us of courage we need through the day:
It rings in our ear like a timely sent warning
And then laughs when we alter and all by the way.

Can’t is the father of feeble endeavor,
The parent of terror and halfhearted work;
It weakens the efforts of artisans clever,
And makes of the toiler an indolent shirk.
It poisons the soul o the man with a vision,
It stifles in infancy many a plan;
It greets honest toiling with open derision
And mocks at the hopes and dreams of a man.

Can’t is a word none should speak without blushing;
To utter it should be a symbol of shame;
Ambition and courage it daily is crushing
It blights a man’s purpose and shortens his aim.
Despise it with all your hatred o error;
Refuse it the lodgement it seeks in your brain;
Arm against it as a creature of terror,
And all that you dream of you someday will gain.

Can’t is the word that is foe to ambition,
An enemy ambushed to shatter your will;
It prey is forever the man with a mission
And bows but to courage and patience and skill
Hate it, with hatred that’s deep and undying,
For once it is welcomed ‘twill break any man;
Whatever the goal you are seeking, keep trying
And answer this demon by saying: “I can!”

Source: The Book of Virtues
By: William J. Bennett,
Chapter 7, “Perseverance” Pgs. 567-568.

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The Character of a Happy Life

By: Henry Wotton

How happy is he born and taught,
That serveth not another’s will;
Whose armor is his honest thought,
And simple truth his utmost skill!

Whose passions not his masters are,
Whose soul is still prepared or death,
Untied unto the worldly care
Of public fame, or private breath;

Who envies none that chance doth raise,
Or vice; who never understood
How deepest wounds are given by praise;
Nor rules of state, but rules of good:

Who hath his life from rumors freed,
Whose conscience is his strong retreat;
Whose state can neither flatters feed,
Nor ruin make oppressors great;

Who God doth late and early pray,
More of his grace than gifts to lend;
And entertains the harmless day
With a religious book or friend

This man is freed from servile bands,
Of hope to rise, or fear to fall;
Lord of himself, though not of lands;
And having nothing,—yet hath all.

Source: The Book of Virtues
: By: William J. Bennett,
Chapter 8, “Honesty”, pg. 619

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