Throughout ‘Don’t Quit,’ American poet Edgar Albert Guest uses simple language and diction to convey an inspirational message to readers. He spends the four stanzas asking readers to persevere no matter how hard their life is. It doesn’t matter what kind of situation one is in. One needs to work hard and never give in to the desire to quit.
Don't Quit Edgar Albert GuestWhen 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.Life is queer with its twists and turns.As everyone of us sometimes learns.And many a fellow turns about when he might have won had he stuck it out.Don't give up though the pace seems slow - you may succeed with another blow.Often the goal is nearer than it seems to a faint and faltering man;Often the struggler has given up when he might have captured the victor's cup;and he learned too late when the night came down,how close he was to the golden crown.Success is failure turned inside out - the silver tint of the clouds of doubt,and when you never can tell how close you are,it may be near when it seems afar;so stick to the fight when you're hardest hit - it's when things seem worst, you must not quit.
Explore Don’t Quit
‘Don’t Quit’ by Edgar Albert Guest is an inspirational poem that should inspire readers to work hard no matter how impossible a situation seems.
In the first stanzas of this poem, the speaker admits that things are going to seem “low” at points in one’s life. One might want to be happy but also have to deal with negative circumstances out of their control. On these occasions, he says, “rest if you must, but don’t you quit.” As the lines progress, the speaker includes several vague descriptions of people who have struggled, quit without knowing how close they were to success. The poem ends on the same note in which it began, inspiring readers to stick through the fight even when “you’re hardest hit.”
Structure and Form
‘Don’t Quit’ by Edgar Albert Guest is a four-stanza poem divided into uneven sets of lines. The first two stanzas contain five lines, known as quintains, the second stanza contains three lines, known as a tercet, and the fourth stanza contains four lines. This is known as a quatrain.
The stanzas also use consistent examples of perfect rhymes. The first stanza rhymes AABBC, and the second stanza rhymes AABCD. The third stanza rhymes: ABB, and the final, four-line stanza rhymes: ABBC.
Throughout ‘Don’t Quit,’ the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Caesura: occurs when a poet inserts a pause in a line of verse. This could be through the use of punctuation or through a natural pause in the meter. For example, “when care is pressing you down a bit – rest if you must, but don’t you quit.”
- Imagery: the use of particularly interesting descriptions. It should trigger the readers senses, inspiring them to imagine the scene in great detail. For example, “Don’t give up though the pace seems slow – you may succeed with another blow.”
- Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple lines. For example, “smile” and “sigh” in line four of the first stanza and “twists” and “turns” in line one of the second stanza.
- Repetition: occurs when the poet repeats one or more elements of a poem. This could be the structure, an image, a word, phrase, or more. In this case, the poet uses several examples of repetition, including anaphora.
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.
In the first stanza of the poem, the reader should immediately take note of the poet’s use of anaphora. This occurs when the writer repeats the same word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines. In this case, four of the five lines of the first stanza begin with the word “when.”
These lines set up a series of instances in which readers are going to have to persevere through the hardest moments in their lives. For example, the poet says that when “the funds are low, and the deaths are high” or when “the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,” it is important to rest “if you must, but don’t you quit.”
The main theme of the poem is revealed in the fifth line of the stanza. Readers should walk away from the poem after they finish all four stanzas with newfound strength and determination to persevere through any hardship they might have to deal with.
Life is queer with its twists and turns.
As everyone of us sometimes learns.
And many a fellow turns about when he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow – you may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than it seems to a faint and faltering man;
In the second stanza, the speaker emphasizes how complicated life is. It is not going to play out the way that one expects. The speaker describes a “fellow” who turns away from hardship rather than persevering. This person would’ve “won” if he had “stuck it out.” The speaker uses this very vague example as a way to inspire readers to persevere, no matter if the issue they’re dealing with seems impossible.
In combination with descriptions of perseverance, the speaker uses endurance-based images that compare working hard to get through a tough time to running at a consistent speed, or “pace.”
Often the struggler has given up when he might have captured the victor’s cup;
and he learned too late when the night came down,
how close he was to the golden crown.
The third stanza is the shortest of the three. It returns to the same images that the poet used in the previous two stanzas, asking readers to remember how important it is to continue working hard no matter how negative the situation is. Just like the “fellow” in the previous stanza, here, the speaker refers to a “struggler” who would’ve captured the “victors cup” if he had not given up. The speaker also uses metaphors like “the golden crown” to refer to success in the broadest of terms. This could be a financial success, success in a relationship, a difficult family matter, or any other issue that one has to deal with.
Success is failure turned inside out – the silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
and when you never can tell how close you are,
it may be near when it seems afar;
so stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit – it’s when things seem worst, you must not quit.
In the final stanza, the speaker says that “success is failure turned inside out.” Here, the speaker is trying to emphasize the fact that in failure or in struggle, success is always there. One has to see the “silver tint of the clouds of doubt” and know that happiness and success are close by. It’s when things seem the hardest that one “must not quit.”
The poem ends with the same few words that the first stanza used in its final line. This helps create a unified feeling and reminds readers of the central theme that they were introduced to at the beginning of the poem.
The tone is inspirational and determined. The speaker knows that life is hard, but through the lines of this poem, they are seeking to inspire the reader to persevere through the darkest times in their life. It is when things seem the worst that success is the closest.
The central theme of this poem is perseverance. No matter what one is dealing with within their life, it is important to stay strong, confident, and not quit, no matter what the outcome seems to be.
The purpose is to inspire readers to work hard throughout their life, no matter what situation they’re in. Even if they feel as though they are failing at everything they do, it is crucial to see through these failures and know that success is right around the corner.
The speaker is unknown. They are someone who believes in the power of positive thinking and perseverance. If one works hard enough, then they are sure to succeed in every avenue of their life. The exact identity of the speaker is not essential for one’s understanding of the piece as a whole.
Readers who enjoyed this piece should also consider reading some other Edgar Guest poems. For example:
- ‘Being Brave at Night’ – talks about how he is not afraid of anything that comes across to terrify him at night.
- ‘It Couldn’t Be Done’ – a poem with an uplifting message about never giving up.
- ‘See It Through’ – a motivational poem meant to inspire a reader to work through whatever problems they are facing.