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10 Don’t Quit Poems

On this list, readers can explore ten of the best poems to maintain your motivation when times get tough from writers like Edgar Albert Guest and Rita Dove.

Don't Quit Poems Visual Representation

The writers below have depicted themes of perseverance, courage, and strength within the ten poems on this list. No matter the difficulties one may be facing, there is a poem on this list that should apply and provide inspiration to work through one’s troubles.

Best Don't Quit Poems

Don’t Quit by Edgar Albert Guest

Guest’s ‘Don’t Quit’ is a great poem for those seeking inspiration to persevere through the hard times in life. It should inspire readers to keep working no matter how difficult things become. Here are the first lines: 

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

when the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,

when the funds are low and the debts are high,

and you want to smile but you have to sigh,

when care is pressing you down a bit – rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Explore more Edgar Albert Guest poems

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

‘Invictus’ was published in 1888 and is perhaps one of the best-known perseverance-promoting poems in the English language. It was included in Henley’s first volume of poems and is today his most famous poem. It is often cited as representing a very particular Victorian attitude towards emotion and self-discipline. Here are a few lines: 

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate

I am the captain of my soul.

Read more William Ernest Henley poems

This is Not a Small Voice by Sonia Sanchez 

This contemporary poem was published in Wounded in the House of a Friend in 1995. It focuses on the love in the Black community and seeks to raise up individual voices. The poem begins with the speaker describing that Black voices are not small. They have a broad and powerful reach aimed at bettering the future for everyone. Here are a few lines: 

This is not a small voice

you hear               this is a large

voice coming out of these cities.

This is the voice of LaTanya.

Kadesha. Shaniqua. […]

Explore more Sonia Sanchez poems

To a Waterfowl by William Cullen Bryant 

This piece was first published in North American Review in March of 1818 and later in Poems in 1821. It focuses on the theme of perseverance and God’s guiding hand. Throughout, Bryant depicts a waterfowl flying across the skyline and relates its solitary progression to his own. Here are the first lines: 

Whither, ‘midst falling dew, 

While glow the heavens with the last steps of day, 

Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue 

Thy solitary way? 

Discover more William Cullen Bryant poems

To be of use by Marge Piercy

Within this piece, Piercy uses figurative language to depict certain admirable character traits in human beings. Her speaker describes her preference regarding who she’d rather spend time with. She writes:

The people I love the best

jump into work head first

without dallying in the shallows

and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.

They seem to become natives of that element,

Explore more Marge Piercy poems

The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes

This well-loved Hughes poem was written amid the Harlem Renaissance. It aims to provide Black artists and poets with inspiration to continue creating. Throughout, he depicts a highly original series of images. For example: 

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

Read more Langston Hughes poems

Rowing by Anne Sexton

This powerful and unforgettable poem was written two years before the poet took her own life in 1974. It was published in Sexton’s final collection, The Awful Rowing Toward God, and is today often cited as one of her best later poems. Throughout this piece, Sexton explores her personal journey to find God. Despite struggles within her everyday life, she continues to persevere on that path until she has “mooring my rowboat / at the dock of the island called God.” She begins the poem with: 

A story, a story!

(Let it go. Let it come.)

I was stamped out like a Plymouth fender

into this world.

First came the crib

with its glacial bars.

Discover more Anne Sexton poems

A Poppy Blooms by Katsushika Hokusai

This short haiku depicts the writing process and how one works until “a poppy blooms,” even when it seems impossible. He wrote: 

I write, erase, rewrite

Erase again, and then

A poppy blooms.

Read more haiku poetry.

My Mother Enters the Work Force by Rita Dove

Throughout this poem, Dove depicts her mother’s perseverance and how she set aside her own needs and desires to work to make ends meet. The poem is set during the Great Depression and begins with these lines: 

The path to ABC Business School

was paid for by a lucky sign:

Alterations, Qualified Seamstress

Inquire Within.

Discover more Rita Dove poems

Be Strong by Maltbie D. Babcock 

This contemporary poem, contained within three short stanzas, describes a certain way of living in the world through which one faces down all their troubles bravely. The poet writes: 

Be strong!

We are not here to play, to dream, to drift;

We have hard work to do and loads to lift;

Shun not the struggle, face it, ’tis God’s gift.

Be strong, be strong, be strong!

Read more Maltbie D. Babcock poems


How to write a “don’t quit” poem? 

To write a poem that speaks on themes of persevering, even through bad times, writers must consider the struggles they faced in their personal life, how those issues made them feel, and how they overcame them. Consider the major themes throughout one’s life and what inspired you to keep working even when tough times seemed unavoidable. 

What is the poem ‘Don’t Quit’ about? 

Edgar Albert Guest’s ‘Don’t Quit’ is a simple poem that inspires readers to continue persevering through hard times. This speaker admits that the path you’re walking will be difficult and that there will be times when it seems dark.

What is the meaning of ‘Don’t Quit’ by Edgar Albert Guest? 

Within this poem, Guest conveys the meaning that it is worth working hard to get through bad times even if they seem impossible to overcome.

What is a “don’t quit” poem?

“Don’t quit” poems are pieces of writing aimed at inspiring readers to keep working through their struggles. Even when times feel tough and one’s path through life is hard to see, these poems should inspire you to keep working hard.

Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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