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Willie’s Question
by [?]


I.

Willie speaks.

Is it wrong, the wish to be great,
For I do wish it so?
I have asked already my sister Kate;
She says she does not know.

Yestereve at the gate I stood
Watching the sun in the west;
When I saw him look so grand and good
It swelled up in my breast.

Next from the rising moon
It stole like a silver dart;
In the night when the wind began his tune
It woke with a sudden start.

This morning a trumpet blast
Made all the cottage quake;
It came so sudden and shook so fast
It blew me wide awake.

It told me I must make haste,
And some great glory win,
For every day was running to waste,
And at once I must begin.

I want to be great and strong,
I want to begin to-day;
But if you think it very wrong
I will send the wish away.

II.

The Father answers.

Wrong to wish to be great?
No, Willie; it is not wrong:
The child who stands at the high closed gate
Must wish to be tall and strong!

If you did not wish to grow
I should be a sorry man;
I should think my boy was dull and slow,
Nor worthy of his clan.

You are bound to be great, my boy:
Wish, and get up, and do.
Were you content to be little, my joy
Would be little enough in you.

Willie speaks.

Papa, papa! I’m so glad
That what I wish is right!
I will not lose a chance to be had;
I’ll begin this very night.

I will work so hard at school!
I will waste no time in play;
At my fingers’ ends I’ll have every rule,
For knowledge is power, they say.

I would be a king and reign,
But I can’t be that, and so
Field-marshal I’ll be, I think, and gain
Sharp battles and sieges slow.

I shall gallop and shout and call,
Waving my shining sword:
Artillery, cavalry, infantry, all
Hear and obey my word.

Or admiral I will be,
Wherever the salt wave runs,
Sailing, fighting over the sea,
With flashing and roaring guns.

I will make myself hardy and strong;
I will never, never give in.
I am so glad it is not wrong!
At once I will begin.

The Father speaks.

Fighting and shining along,
All for the show of the thing!
Any puppet will mimic the grand and strong
If you pull the proper string!

Willie speaks.

But indeed I want to be great,
I should despise mere show;
The thing I want is the glory-state–
Above the rest, you know!

The Father answers.

The harder you run that race,
The farther you tread that track,
The greatness you fancy before your face
Is the farther behind your back.

To be up in the heavens afar,
Miles above all the rest,
Would make a star not the greatest star,
Only the dreariest.

That book on the highest shelf
Is not the greatest book;
If you would be great, it must be in yourself,
Neither by place nor look.

The Highest is not high
By being higher than others;
To greatness you come not a step more nigh
By getting above your brothers.

III.

Willie speaks.

I meant the boys at school,
I did not mean my brother.
Somebody first, is there the rule–
It must be me or another.

The Father answers.

Oh, Willie, it’s all the same!
They are your brothers all;
For when you say, “Hallowed be thy name!”
Whose Father is it you call?

Could you pray for such rule to him?
Do you think that he would hear?
Must he favour one in a greedy whim
Where all are his children dear?