‘See It Through’ by Edgar Albert Guest is a three-stanza poem that is separated into sets of eight lines, or octaves. This form is very common in Guest’s poetry, as is the further formatting of the lines into couplets. He presents a number of statements that are self-contained motivational mantras. Any number of these lines could be pulled from the text and used in another context. This is part of the reason that Guest’s poetry gained, and still holds, popularity amongst the public. His verse is easy reading, especially compared to his fellow contemporary American poets, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
Unlike the majority of his poems, this piece does not have a standard pattern of rhyme. There are a number of moments of repetition, but none that remain the same throughout (except for the refrain). For instance, the words “do,” “through” and “you” appear a number of times. This creates a connecting rhyme that unifies the first stanza with the second and the third. Guest also accomplishes this with the repetition of the refrain, also the title of the poem, “See it through!”
Summary of See It Through
The poem begins with the speaker telling the reader to always meet one’s problems “face to face.” This is the best way to confront any conflict. As the poem progresses the speaker explains that this is even more true when the problem seems unconquerable or unavoidable. If one fails, that’s okay.
By the time a reader gets to the end of the poem, there is no room for doubt around the speaker’s opinion on confidence, determination, and perseverance. These character traits are of the utmost importance to him, as is the general principle that one should always see things “through” to the end.
You can read the full poem here.
Analysis of See It Through
When you’re up against a trouble,Meet it squarely, face to face;(…)You may fail, but you may conquer,See it through!
In the first stanza of the poem, Guest begins by outlining the main theme of the entire piece. This was customary within his writing. Guest is appreciated today for his clear choice of words and straightforward line structures. The first two lines tell a reader that whenever there is trouble, no matter what that trouble may be, one should:
Meet it squarely, face to face;
Guest is concerned with themes of perseverance, bravery, and determination in this text. It is through the following couplets that he outlines how one is supposed to remain brave when the sky is “Black.” In the next two lines, he tells his intended listener to “Lift” their “chin and set” their “shoulders.” They should prepare themselves for anything and everything with planted feet (or a stable posture). The speaker is not advocating for the worst-case scenario, just making sure that anyone who reads this piece knows how to be prepared for it.
In the next two lines, he sets up a situation in which one is unable to “dodge” a bad situation. Any attempts to avoid it would be in “vain.” It seems now that he is aware of the difficulties inherent in facing every situation head-on but that does not change how he wants his listener to face them.
The final couplet of the first stanza makes use of the title. It acts as a refrain, appearing at the end of all three stanzas, asking the reader or listener to “See it through!” There is no definition of the activities in this poem. This allows the statement, “See it through!” To apply to any situation a reader brings to the text.
Black may be the clouds about youAnd your future may seem grim,(…)Running from it will not save you,See it through!
The second stanza begins with another couplet that presents a situation in which “Black…clouds” are all about one’s life. They make the day, and the future, seem “grim” or without hope. They might also make one want to give up on the “it” they are supposed to see through. With the hope of inspiring someone struggling onward, the speaker tells the listener not to lose their “nerve” or courage. Black clouds are only a sign that “you” should keep fighting. They should force one to work harder and stay in fighting shape.
In the next three lines, Guest puts forward a very pragmatic line about fate. He describes how one’s future is preordained and that if “the worst is bound to happen” then one should not run from it. Negative situations, even terrible ones, should also be faced head-on and “see[n] through.”
Even hope may seem but futile,When with troubles you’re beset,(…)Eyes front, head high to the finish.See it through!
Within the third stanza, the speaker sets up a station in which it seems as if “hope” is “futile.” Sometimes “troubles” are common and (seemingly) insurmountable. If one finds themselves in a situation such as this then just:
[…] Remember you are facing
Just what other men have met.
There is nothing new in the world. Every problem has already been faced, and conquered, by others. This is meant to take some of the bluster and intimidation out of prospective situations. The line also serves as a mantra for the intended listener. It is something one could mentally repeat over and over again.
The final lines return to the ways one can physically prepare themselves for possible failure. One should keep their “Eyes front” and “head high to the finish.” This will help with one’s confidence in this particular situation and those that might follow. The poem concludes with the refrain repeating itself once more, leaving no room for questions about what ‘See it Through!’ is concerned with.