Manvotional: The Builders

by Brett & Kate McKay on July 14, 2012 · 27 comments

in Manvotionals

The Builders

By: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme.

Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.

For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.

Truly shape and fashion these;
Leave no yawning gaps between;
Think not, because no man sees,
Such things will remain unseen.

In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere.

Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where Gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean.

Else our lives are incomplete,
Standing in these walls of Time,
Broken stairways, where the feet
Stumble as they seek to climb.

Build to-day, then, strong and sure,
With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall to-morrow find its place.

Thus alone can we attain
To those turrets, where the eye
Sees the world as one vast plain,
And one boundless reach of sky.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Garrett July 14, 2012 at 11:30 pm

I really liked this! Thanks for posting it.

2 Nick July 14, 2012 at 11:55 pm

That’s very nice. I also like Wadsworth’s poem “The Village Blacksmith.”

3 Patrick July 15, 2012 at 12:08 am


4 andrew July 15, 2012 at 12:38 am

It’s funny, in my office (I’m currently in school for Civil Engineering and work for my sister/neighbouring city; Waterloo,On) I have both this and The Bridge Builder by Will Allen Dromgoole, which was also featured on AoM, framed on the wall. The text is fairly small, maybe 10pt text, but they are there with my accolades and certificates. The Bridge Builder especially rings home to any engineer or architect who takes pride in their work.

5 Daniel July 15, 2012 at 1:34 am

That was so inspirational!

Thank you for sharing this.

6 Greg July 15, 2012 at 8:57 am

This is sweet encouragement to build those unseen parts with care and quality.

7 John July 15, 2012 at 10:53 am

Thanks, that was just what I needed on a Sunday morning.

8 jcard21 July 15, 2012 at 11:21 am

I always liked this poem, too.

The Builder / unknown author

I saw a group of men in my hometown.
I saw a group of men tearing a building down.
With a heave and a ho and a mighty yell,
They swung a beam and the sidewalk fell.

And I said to the foreman, “Are these men skilled.
The type you’d hire if you wanted to build?”
And he laughed and said, “Why, no indeed.”
He said, Common labor’s all I need.

For I can tear down in a day or two
What it took a builder ten years to do.”
And I thought to myself as I walked away,
“Which of these roles am I going to play?

Am I the type that constantly tears down
As I make my way, foolishly, around?
Or am I the type that’s trying to build with care,
In hopes that my organization’ll be glad I was there?”

9 JohnDean July 15, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Great find, love it. I work in the trades and wish that some of my co-workers would take this to heart, too often I’ve heard “not my house” or “nobody will see that when they put up the ceiling”. I’m posting it in the shack first thing in the morning.

10 Randall July 15, 2012 at 7:18 pm

What beautiful poem! I agree with the poem in that it is up to us to build our own fate and that we must take great care in doing so.

Thank you for sharing. :)

11 Gabe July 15, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Wow! That first stanza hit me like a truck. And the rest just kept running me over. Thanks for the post! That is one powerful message.

12 Grant July 15, 2012 at 9:51 pm

I love the poetry you put up here. I would love to see a book of just manly poems to read

13 MercuryAlchemist July 16, 2012 at 1:53 am

A classic. Glad to see you are posting poetry on here; it is essential to any gentleman’s education.
@Grant If you want a book of “just manly poems” just pick up a copy of Kipling’s Collected Works — probably from a used bookstore. Service, especially his earlier works, would also work quite well, and Masefield’s Salt Water Ballad’s are also well worth the time.

14 Patrick July 16, 2012 at 7:28 am

This is hitting home for me today, especially with the extra attention I’ve begun giving to the areas of my life I’ve neglected since I’ve started visiting this site. Thank you!

15 Ian July 16, 2012 at 10:12 am

Does this apply to playing with Legos too?

16 Bruce Lancaster July 16, 2012 at 11:41 am

A specific Kipling poem that belongs with this…”The Mary Gloster”, a dying shipbuilder/innovator/industrialist reviews things.

Most memorable line:
“They copied all they could follow, but they couldn’t copy my mind,
And I left ‘em sweating and stealing a year and a half behind.”

An online copy:

By the way…when I went hunting for this, the first thing I found was a quote of the line above in a letter from a cabinet officer to Harry Truman advising him not to consider sharing atomic secrets with the Russians!

17 J. Delancy July 16, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Aye verily:

As a former welder I know how annoying it is to have to go over someone else’s shoddy work.

“Build to-day, then, strong and sure
With firm and ample base
And ascending and secure
Shall tomorrow find its place”

This should be applied to our physical, mental, spiritual and financial lives.

At the end of this post is another poem that speaks to living a “manly” life.

18 Anthony July 16, 2012 at 3:52 pm

I recommend Frost’s The Road Not Taken be included in your book of manly poetry.

19 Cameron July 16, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Every man should be required to read this poem. A true masterpiece.

20 Lama John Heaviside July 16, 2012 at 9:09 pm

And thanks for spreading the inspirational message of poetry. 13 years ago I spent two weeks in a georgeous little three bedroom house in Hungary made of baked mud with a slate roof. 200 years old……no wall plaster to replace, no shingles to repair/replace, no carpenter ants or cockroaches, in the floor/walls……No place for rats or mice to hide

21 Casey July 17, 2012 at 11:41 am

This is a poem I read over 20 years ago in high school. It still speaks to me today, even more so as a middle school teacher. Thank you for the posting. I plan on making it a poster and displaying it prominently in my own middle school classroom for my students.

22 Zeppelinite July 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm

If it were only like that today…
Here is my poem after I went to look at a new home in a master planned community.

In days of old on steel and stone
our score we laid upon.
To prove it worth the test of time
safe haven from a bomb.
But now we build a house and home
with trash and labor cheap.
For if a feather hits the roof
it would fall into a heap.


23 Clar July 18, 2012 at 5:07 am

Does this apply to playing with Legos too?

24 Brian V. July 18, 2012 at 9:38 am

The poem’s references allude to the precepts taught in the degrees of Freemasonry.

25 Nate July 18, 2012 at 2:01 pm

@ Brian V. – I was just going to say, this was the perfect read right after my lodge meeting last night!

26 JB July 19, 2012 at 12:59 pm

It is indeed very motivational except we were just recently informed that we build nothing no matter how hard we work.

27 The Writer August 1, 2012 at 5:30 pm

JB that’s impossible, if you work hard, you build yourself, no matter the results you achieve outside yourself.
Thanks to all, for the posting and the comments…live strong..

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