Manvotional: Robert Service’s “The Quitter”

by Brett on April 25, 2009 · 12 comments

in A Man's Life, Manvotionals


Right now I’m heading into my very last law school finals. It’s been a long 3 years and with the end finally in sight, it can be hard to stay focused and motivated. But I think about my old football days, and how the fourth quarter was the most important part of the game. It’s when you’re most tired and you need to dig down deep to your last reserves of strength.

We’ve all probably had moments in our life when things got so tough, we just wanted to throw our hands up and quit. But it’s precisely in those times when have to grit our teeth and keeping going on. Quitting is the easy thing to do. It’s the keep-going-on that’s hard. But it’s taking the hard way that makes you a man.

The Quitter

By: Robert Service

When you’re lost in the Wild, and you’re scared as a child,
And Death looks you bang in the eye,
And you’re sore as a boil, it’s according to Hoyle
To cock your revolver and . . . die.
But the Code of a Man says: “Fight all you can,”
And self-dissolution is barred.
In hunger and woe, oh, it’s easy to blow . . .
It’s the hell-served-for-breakfast that’s hard.

“You’re sick of the game!” Well, now, that’s a shame.
You’re young and you’re brave and you’re bright.
“You’ve had a raw deal!” I know-but don’t squeal,
Buck up, do your damnedest, and fight.
It’s the plugging away that will win you the day,
So don’t be a piker, old pard!
Just draw on your grit; it’s so easy to quit:
It’s the keeping-your-chin-up that’s hard.

It’s easy to cry that you’re beaten-and die;
It’s easy to crawfish and crawl;
But to fight and to fight when hope’s out of sight-
Why, that’s the best game of them all!
And though you come out of each grueling bout,
All broken and beaten and scarred,
Just have one more try-it’s dead easy to die,
It’s the keeping-on-living that’s hard.

Hat tip: Tanner Greer

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andrew April 25, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Great poem. One of my favorites for years. Good luck with exams. I too will be keeping this poem in mind as I study for mine–thanks for the reminder.

2 Jon April 25, 2009 at 9:57 pm

Good luck on the finals. Nothing but the best in the future.

3 E April 25, 2009 at 11:21 pm

I’m coming down to the wire as well. 3 more weeks of lecture, then finals and I have my Bachelor’s degree. I’ve been suffering from burnout for the last few weeks, though. Just trying to cram as much sleep and Internet in my free time instead of studying this material that’s really kicking my ass. Time for me to man up!

4 Giggles April 25, 2009 at 11:44 pm

Where is that picture from? As a marathon runner, I’m intrigued by it. That looks like a picture with quite the story behind it.

5 Alan April 26, 2009 at 6:33 am

Congrats on finishing up law school – I’m in the exact same position, tying up my 3L year, starting finals tomorrow. It *has* been a long journey, hasn’t it? Walking into this economy could really be viewed as as serious kick in the pants, but you strike me as someone who’s probably going to end up on top. I like to think that I’m going to be the same way. :)

6 Atom Heart Father April 26, 2009 at 11:16 am

I don’t know a lot of poetry, but I know I like Robert Service. I’ve been a fan ever since my grandfather read the Cremation of Sam McGee to me as a child. :)

7 Justin April 26, 2009 at 3:21 pm

Great timing on this piece! I just got back from a weekend of training for Air Force ROTC and had been feeling exhausted and demoralized, but this poem really gives me motivation to keep going with the end goal of being a pilot in sight. Thanks for the good work and good luck on finals!

8 Colin April 27, 2009 at 4:09 am

The picture above is from the finish of the 2005 Boston Marathon.

9 Greg Throne April 27, 2009 at 5:31 am

Good deal that someone finally recognised Robert W. Service’s poetry. He fits the definitions of manly…strong moral code, humor, grace under pressure, need for adventure. Facts> Service went to the Yukon during the gold rush of 1898. Service was an ambulance driver on the Western Front during WWI, and was badly wounded. Pace, Papa Hemingway, Service also lived in Paris after the Great War. His poetry reflects comedy, tragedy, a lingering sense of the absurd, and is still in print. He also put a high value on self discipline, self respect, and always trying to see the humor in a situation. See also his poems, “Grin”, “Song of Winter Weather”(sic) and his two classics, “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” and “The Cremation of Sam Magee”.

10 Rapscallion January 20, 2014 at 4:28 am

I prefer ‘If…’ Same message, bettter verse.
Kipling is by far the greater poet

11 dennis baker February 20, 2014 at 1:15 am

The survival of the species pre-conditioned Genetic code of all humans in a poem !

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