Rules Of The Road

By John Boyle O'reilly

WHAT man would be wise, let him drink of the river
That bears on its bosom the record of time
A message to him every wave can deliver
To teach him to creep till he knows how to climb
Who heeds not experience, trust him not; tell him
The scope of one mind can but trifles achieve:
The weakest who draws from the mine will excel him
The wealth of mankind is the wisdom they leave.

For peace do not hope-to be just you must break it
Still work for the minute and not for the year;
When honor comes to you, be ready to take it;
But reach not to seize it before it is near.
Be silent and safe-silence never betrays you;
Be true to your word and your work and your friend;
Put least trust in him who is foremost to praise you,
Nor judge of a road till it draw to the end.

Stand erect in the vale, nor exult on the mountain;
Take gifts with a sigh-most men give to be paid;
‘I had’ is a heartache, ‘I have’ is a fountain,-
You’re worth what you saved, not the million you made.
Trust toil not intent, or your plans will miscarry;
Your wife keep a sweetheart, instead of a tease;
Rule children by reason, not rod; and, mind, marry
Your girl when you can-and your boy when you please.

Steer straight as the wind will allow; but be ready
To veer just a point to let travelers pass:
Each sees his own star-a stiff course is too steady
When this one to Meeting goes, that one to Mass.
Our stream’s not so wide but two arches may span it-
Good neighbor and citizen; these for a code,
And this truth in sight,-every man on the planet
Has just as much right as yourself to the road.

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