At Either Extreme

At Either Extreme

By Herbert Kaufman

To a Rut-jogger

IF you’re jogging along in a crowded way,
Stepping the same slow pace each day;
Like and old car-horse with his movements tracked,
It is time, my friend, you were soundly whacked
‘Til your eyes are open to the fact,
That the land on either side of the road
Is a virgin field that may be sowed.
If you need more space in which to do
There’s plenty of waiting room for you.
In farming, in business, in art, there are still
Enormous deserts for wit to till
What the world most needs are magic seeds
That are spread as dreams and are reaped as deeds.

But the beaten paths where so many pant,
And jostle and rant, is no place to plant
For high endeavor. Nobody ever
Achieved distinction within a rut
Or by following patterns the past had cut.
And the posted score declares you can’t
Securesuccess at a bargain rate,
Or snare it with stale and borrowed bait.
You must force a gap through the throttling throng
If you really expect to come along.
But the man who pines, and the man who whines,
Who skulks away from the skirmish lines —
He isn’t worth bothering over a minute;
He’s out of the game, and he never was in it.

To a Crested Popinjay

THOUGH lions and griffins may charge your crest,
If truth be confessed, nobody’s impressed —
Mere quarterings can’t lift you over the rest.
The fact that dim grandsires rode off to war
And rampaged and tore in a wild zeal for gore,
Doesn’t count any more;
The days of the snob and le sang pur is o’er,
In these times, even kings are poor, puppety things —
Ermined jumping jacks, jerking on parliament strings.
Your family tree may reach high up in G,
But we’re waiting to find out what your branch will be.
It’s you, not your father, we’re putting on trial;
It’s your exploits, not lineage, that reaches the file;
It’s the record you’ve made that we count worth the while.

A noble old oak drops acorns all day,
But that doesn’t say
They’ll all sprout the same way —
A lot will be spoiled by a touch of decay,
You may start in the peerage or start in the steerage,
As the son of a duke or a grimy coal-heaver;
‘Twill amount to the same if you’re not a believer
In self, and are ready to work like a beaver.
The world scoffs at men who can’t help to improve it;
It respects only brains with the power to move it,
Don’t flaunt coats-of-arms or take pride in beginnings,
Your birth won’t advantage or hinder your winnings.

Rochester Evening Journal (Rochester, New York) Jan 4, 1930

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