Be Strong by Maltbie D. Babcock 

‘Be Strong’ by Maltbie D. Babcock is a three stanza poem which is separated into sets of five lines, or quintains. Each of these stanzas follows a consistent and structured rhyme scheme which is emphasized by the repetition of the phrase, “Be strong!” 

The lines rhyme in a pattern of, abbba accca addda. The poet has chosen to box in the central tercet with the repeating lines, “Be strong!” And “Be strong, be strong, be strong!” This choice guarantees a reader will finish the poem fully understanding what the poet wanted to get across through its composition. 

 

Summary of Be Strong 

‘Be Strong’ by Maltbie D. Babcock describes a certain way of living in the world through which one faces down all their troubles bravely. 

In the first stanza of this piece the speaker introduces the phrase, “Be strong!” This short two-word sentence will be used twelve times throughout the fifteen line poem. It starts and ends each stanza. The speaker begins by reminding a reader that humankind is not on earth to “play” or to waste life in “dream[s].” God made humankind for a reason and one must not forget to be thankful for “hard work,” as if came from God. 

In the second stanza of the piece the speaker shames those who would turn away from evil. Just because there is evil in the world, that doesn’t mean one “acquiesces” and folds their hands. One must stand up and speak out against any wrongs they perceive. 

In the final stanza the speaker emphasizes his previous point by telling a reader they must fight on throughout the days of life no matter how hard the battle is. One must never give in as better times will come tomorrow. 

 

Analysis of Be Strong 

Stanza One 

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!

In the first stanza of this piece the speaker begins with the short two-word phrase which is utilized as a refrain within the text. It is also the line which becomes the title of the poem. 

This first line, “Be strong!” Is a declaration that is wide sweeping in its implications. At first a reader will not know what exactly it is that the speaker is means. What, a reader might ask, should one be strong in the face of? 

The next lines of the poem do not do much to craft one particular situation the speaker might be referring to. Instead, he refers to a larger group of people: “We.” There is no delineation between one type of person and another, so a reader should infer the “We” to truly mean everyone. He is reminding everyone within these lines that “We are not here to play.” Life exists for a reason and one should do everything they can to make the most of it. It is not meant to play host to men and women who “dream” and “drift” through life. 

This poem’s speaker is hoping that his words remind everyone of the importance of life. There is so much that one can accomplish through “hard word.” The “loads” might be heavy and hard to “lift” but that does not mean one gives up.

The second to last line of this stanza reminds a reader that life, no matter how difficult is “God’s gift.” One should not “Shun” the struggle of life but embrace it as everything one experiences comes from God. 

 

Stanza Two 

Be strong!

Say not the days are evil—who’s to blame?

And fold the hands and acquiesce—O shame!

Stand up, speak out, and bravely, in God’s name.

Be strong, be strong, be strong!

In the second stanza of this poem the speaker moves on to discuss another range of ways which one might be tempted to write off life. The first line is the refrain which I reader should now be expecting. The next speaks of how one should “Say not” that the “days are evil.” There is no reason to think in such a black and white way. The speaker makes the point stronger by asking a reader to remember who is to “blame” for the way one’s day progresses? 

In the next lines the narrator of this poem shames those who would “fold the hands and acquiesce” when times become difficult. This is a “shame[ful]” way to live as it does not do justice to God and the life he bestowed. 

The last two lines ask that a reader shake off this way of living, shun negative thoughts, and “Stand up” against any injustice one sees in the world. One cannot live on the sidelines, one must “speak out” and act “bravely” if for no other reason than to bring glory to “God’s name.” He follows this up with a repetition of the phrase, “Be strong!” A reader should consider the fact that this phrase is repeated twelve times throughout the whole poem and what that might mean to the poet. 

 

Stanza Three 

Be strong!

It matters not how deep entrenched the wrong,

How hard the battle goes, the day, how long;

Faint not, fight on! Tomorrow comes the song.

Be strong, be strong, be strong!

In the final stanza of the poem the speaker once more begins with the words “Be strong!” They are being repeated so frequently in an effort to force them into a reader, or listener’s, head. One cannot forget them after reading this poem. 

The following lines address a reader who might say that the “wrongs” of the world are too deeply “entrenched,” so as there is nothing one can do to change things. The speaker says that the depth of “wrong” means nothing. It does not matter. Additionally, he states that the length and difficulty of a “battle” should not change the way one lives in the world. One should never give up, become “Faint,” or decide to stop fighting. 

The last section of the poem brings an additional measure of hope into the narrative. The speaker wants to make sure the reader knows that “Tomorrow” will be better. There will be a “song” at the end of the battle which proves that one did the right thing in maintaining their resolve. 

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