Nobility by Alice Cary

True worth is in being, not seeming,-
In doing, each day that goes by,
Some little good-not in dreaming
Of great things to do by and by.
For whatever men say in their blindness,
And spite of the fancies of youth,
There’s nothing so kingly as kindness,
And nothing so royal as truth.

We get back our meet as we measure-
We cannot do wrong and feel right,
Nor can we give pain and gain pleasure,
For justice avenges each slight.
The air for the wing of the sparrow,
The bush for the robin and wren,
But always the path that is narrow
And straight, for the children of men.

‘Tis not in the pages of story
The heart of its ills to begulie,
Though he who makes courtship to glory
Gives all that he hath for her smile.
For when from her heights he has won her,
Alas it is only to prove
That nothing’s so sacred as honor,
And nothing so loyal as love!

We cannot make bargains for blisses,
Nor catch them like fishes in nets;
And sometimes the thing our life misses
Helps more than the thing which it gets.
For good lieth not in pursuing,
Nor gaining of great nor of small,
But just in the doing, and doing
As we would be done by, is all.

Through envy, through malice, through hating,
Against the world , early and late,
no jot of our courage abating-
Our part is to work and wait.
And slight is the sting of his trouble
Whose winnings are less than his worth;
For he who is honest and noble,
Whatever his fortunes or birth.

–Alice Cary

4 thoughts on “Nobility by Alice Cary

  1. Paulab says:

    Wow!, That was a simply brilliant choice for you to put in your blog this week. It will become my new favorite go to piece. Read it to my daughter to teach her about the way life is. Thank you so much!!! Reminds me of your post concerning your school delay plans as well. Beautiful.

  2. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    Paula, I love this poem for so many reasons. There is such bracing good sense in it. Being, not seeming. A lot to think about there. Image is everything now, but obviously, our substance as a Christian is what matters. I also love the line about “sometimes the thing your life misses, helps more than the thing that it gets.”

    I was fuming about my small cupboard space in the kitchen last night (a daily ritual) and that line came to mind and made me smile.

    Being content with what I have, doing practical things to show love, taking care of my responsibilities at home, being honest, being kind…wow. Only the Lord can help me to accomplish those humble things faithfully, but that’s what the Christian life is all about!

    Glad you like the poem, too! I made one of my sons memorize that for 6th grade homeschool…

  3. Paulab says:

    Funny, the line you referenced was the one that really resonated with me the most. I could write a book based on that line for my kids! LOVED IT! Reaching a birthday milestone this year seems to really get the mind going on ‘what ifs’, ‘what happened’, is this where I should be etc. Recently went to a funeral of my childhood best friend’s mother. Thinking about how her life turned out so glamourous and exciting (think Hollywood) was a gift to let me reflect on how things truly turned out the way they needed to be for who I am.
    I also, have been reflecting on appreciating what I have, and not constantly looking for more. Was surprised and happy to realize that I too had been caught up in our ‘more is better’ culture. So overlooked all these years. I have been watching a lot of old movies lately and noticing how simply people lived and remembered how simply I lived growing up and starting out, and how much we now think we need. I see everything with new eyes now. A wonderful insight for me, – thanks of course to a lot of prayer. Printed out the poem have it where I can see it. Thanks!

  4. C. Thomas Willis says:

    This is one of my favorite poems. However, I believe the wording of the second to last line is in error. Specifically, it goes:
    “For he is honest is noble.”

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