Famous Life Poem

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) uses this poem to show that people have the power to make their own destiny. Most of the stanzas start with “We will (be/do/climb),” which brings attention to the belief that we will each become what we set out to become. This poem is made up of quatrains (four-line stanzas) that follow the ABAB rhyme scheme. Although Ella Wheeler Wilcox was born to poor family and received many rejection letters for her poetry, she remained optimistic and kept working hard for what she wanted.

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"It Might Have Been"

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We will be what we could be. Do not say,
    "It might have been, had not or that, or this."
No fate can keep us from the chosen way;
    He only might who is.

We will do what we could do. Do not dream
    Chance leaves a hero, all uncrowned to grieve.
I hold, all men are greatly what they seem;
    He does who could achieve.

We will climb where we could climb. Tell me not
    Of adverse storms that kept thee from the height.
What eagle ever missed the peak he sought?
    He always climbs who might.

I do not like the phrase, "It might have been!"
    It lacks all force, and life's best truths perverts:
For I believe we have, and reach, and win,
    Whatever our deserts.

more Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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