In honor of Father’s Day weekend, I thought I’d just bring you something from one of my favorite poets, Edgar Guest (1881-1959). Guest was born in England, but his family moved to Michigan when he was ten years old. At age 13 he started out his career as a newspaper office boy for the Detroit Free Press, where he would work for the next 60 years. When he was 17, his father passed away, and he had to drop out of school to work full-time. He became a reporter, and by 1904 he had his own column which he called “Chaff.” From 1931-1942 he had a weekly radio program.
Edgar Guest’s first collection of poems, Home Rhymes, was published in 1909, the first of more than 20 collections of poetry to be published during his lifetime. Guest wrote about things of everyday life that everyone could relate to such as family, patriotism, work, faith, friendship, nature, and holidays, and he became known as “the poet of the people.” Guest’s poems are at the same time warm and sentimental, humorous, and inspiring. Yes, they are a bit “old-fashioned” both in language and theme, but Edgar Guest wrote in a time when men were the “bread winners” and did anything they had to in order to provide for their family. Values like integrity, perseverance, courage, and hard work come through in his poetry. Some of my favorite poems by Guest are “True Nobility”, “Can’t”, “Faith”, and “Results and Roses.”
Even though Guest lost his dad when he was just 17, his verses about fathers seem to reveal that he had a wonderful relationship with him, and if they are any indication, I’ll bet Edgar was a great dad himself. I lost my own dad more than 20 years ago, and my father-in-law six years ago, and I greatly miss their presence in my life and that of my kids. But this Father’s Day is special because it’s my son’s first one as a father.
Now maybe you don’t have the kind of relationship with or memories of your father that you wish you had; maybe there’s nothing you can do about that. But consider how you might be able to encourage the young men in your life to be the kind of dad that every child needs and deserves – the kind of dad these poems describe. So here are a few poems by Edgar Guest that I found to be particularly appropriate this week and brought a smile to my face as I read them. I hope you will enjoy reading them as well, and maybe you can share them with your dad or a special father that you know. Or sit down as a family and read them together with your kids.
Only a Dad (1916)
Only a dad with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Bringing little of gold or fame
To show how well he has played the game;
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice
To see him come and to hear his voice.
Only a dad with a brood of four,
One of ten million men or more
Plodding along in the daily strife,
Bearing the whips and the scorns of life,
With never a whimper of pain or hate,
For the sake of those who at home await.
Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd,
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.
Only a dad but he gives his all,
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing with courage stern and grim
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen:
Only a dad, but the best of men.
I found this next one to be so funny, and oh, so true in many families! Does anyone know a dad like this one?
My father knows the proper way
The nation should be run;
He tells us children every day
Just what should now be done.
He knows the way to fix the trusts,
He has a simple plan;
But if the furnace needs repairs,
We have to hire a man.
My father, in a day or two
Could land big thieves in jail;
There’s nothing that he cannot do,
He knows no word like “fail.”
“Our confidence” he would restore,
Of that there is no doubt;
But if there is a chair to mend,
We have to send it out.
All public questions that arise,
He settles on the spot;
He waits not till the tumult dies,
But grabs it while it’s hot.
In matters of finance he can
Tell Congress what to do;
But, O, he finds it hard to meet
His bills as they fall due.
It almost makes him sick to read
The things law-makers say;
Why, father’s just the man they need,
He never goes astray.
All wars he’d very quickly end,
As fast as I can write it;
But when a neighbor starts a fuss,
‘Tis mother has to fight it.
In conversation father can
Do many wondrous things;
He’s built upon a wiser plan
Than presidents or kings.
He knows the ins and outs of each
And every deep transaction;
We look to him for theories,
But look to ma for action.
I’m thankful for my husband who over the years spent time with our kids — taking them camping, rock-climbing, hiking, shooting and hunting. This next poem gives us a little glimpse into the relationship young Edgar may have had with his father and how he wishes he had him for a longer time.
A Boy and His Dad (1921)
A boy and his dad on a fishing-trip—
There is a glorious fellowship!
Father and son and the open sky
And the white clouds lazily drifting by,
And the laughing stream as it runs along
With the clicking reel like a martial song,
And the father teaching the youngster gay
How to land a fish in the sportsman’s way.
I fancy I hear them talking there
In an open boat, and the speech is fair.
And the boy is learning the ways of men
From the finest man in his youthful ken.
Kings, to the youngster, cannot compare
With the gentle father who’s with him there.
And the greatest mind of the human race
Not for one minute could take his place.
Which is happier, man or boy?
The soul of the father is steeped in joy,
For he’s finding out, to his heart’s delight,
That his son is fit for the future fight.
He is learning the glorious depths of him,
And the thoughts he thinks and his every whim;
And he shall discover, when night comes on,
How close he has grown to his little son.
A boy and his dad on a fishing-trip—
Builders of life’s companionship!
Oh, I envy them, as I see them there
Under the sky in the open air,
For out of the old, old long-ago
Come the summer days that I used to know,
When I learned life’s truths from my father’s lips
As I shared the joy of his fishing-trips.
Here are a few more wonderful poems about family life that are a great read:
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also wrote some great poems that honor fathers and families, such as “The Village Blacksmith” and “The Children’s Hour.”
So if you’re a dad or an expectant dad, Happy Father’s Day! And if you have a dad who’s still living, why not give him a call, send him a note, or spend some time with him this weekend. Most of all, if you’re a child of God, thank the Lord today for being your Heavenly Father!
Related Sites & Articles
- Edgar Guest (www.poets.org)
- More Poems by Edgar Guest (www.poemhunter.com)
- Sofine’s Edgar Guest Collection (http://sofinesjoyfulmoments.com/quotes/edguest.htm
- “Edgar Guest, Marianne Moore, and the Place Where Pop Meets Modernism” (www.slate.com)
- The history of Father’s Day (www.history.com)