No critic ever counts who points out all
The strong man’s minor faults or where could he
Who does the deed indeed, oh, better be
Without the knowledge of upcoming fall.
The credit does belong to all who act
Whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood
To those who have no fear of dirt or mud
But valiantly press on the good attack.
There is no effort free of errors but
Let each shortcoming be your teacher in
The way that life through pain can lead to win
Just pause and listen well to heart and gut.
With great devotion try and try again
Aspire to be measured against great men.
Akira G. Sternberg
The sonnet, in iambic pentameter, relies heavily on the following famous excerpt of a speech by Theodore Roosevelt, titled ‘The Man in the Arena’:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.Theodore Roosevelt
The speech was given at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, on 23 April 1910. You can find the the full text in the Theodore Roosevelt Center website.
The philosophy of the speech, and consequently of the sonnet, is indicative of the ‘stiff upper lip’ attitude toward life; of a heroic, proactive approach; of a stoic mindset. You can find three marvellous related poems in the 3rd issue of The Sanguine Herald newsletter.
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Photo by Guillaume Bergaglia on Unsplash.