Answering Him

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Edgar Guest

"When shall I be a man?" he said, 
As I was putting him to bed. 
"How many years will have to be 
Before Time makes a man of me? 
And will I be a man when 
I am grown up big? 
  
I heaved a sigh, 
Because it called for careful thought 
To give the answer that he sought. 
And so I sat him on my knee, 
And said to him: "A man you'll be 
  
When you have learned that honor brings 
More joy than all the crowns of kings; 
That it is better to be true 
To all who know and trust in you 
Than all the gold of earth to gain 
If winning it shall leave a stain. 
  
"When you can fight for victory sweet, 
Yet bravely swallow down defeat, 
And cling to hope and keep the right, 
Nor use deceit instead of might; 
  
When you are kind and brave and clean, 
And fair to all and never mean; 
When there is good in all you plan, 
That day, my boy, you'll be a man. 
  
"Some of us learn this truth too late; 
That years alone can't make us great; 
That many who are three-score, ten 
Have fallen short of being men, 
  
Because in selfishness they fought 
And toiled without refining thought; 
And whether wrong or whether right 
They lived but for their own delight. 
  
"When you have learned that you must hold 
Your honor dearer far than gold; 
That no ill-gotten wealth or fame 
Can pay you for your tarnished name; 
  
And when in all you say or do 
Of others you're considerate, too, 
Content to do the best you can 
By such a creed, you'll be a man."