...if we be honest with ourselves,                                             
we shall be honest with each other. -George MacDonald

Jesus Wept 

Jesus Wept

 

True Greatness

The following is part of a poem about true greatness. It was written by a Scott in the 1800’s (at the height of the British Empire’s power). It's about a boy who asks his father how to achieve greatness. His father tells his son (Willie), that if he pursues the path he has been describing, his

“soul will be but a windmill thing
Blown round by its hopes and fears.”

Here is a little bit more of what his father tells him.

The Father speaks.

Fighting and shining along,
All for the show of the thing!
Any puppet will mimic the grand and strong
If you pull the proper string!

Willie speaks.

But indeed I want to
be great,
I should despise mere show;
The thing I want is the glory-state-
Above the rest, you know!
The Father answers.

The harder you run that race,
The farther you tread that track,
The greatness you fancy before your face
Is the farther behind your back.

To be up in the heavens afar,
Miles above all the rest,
Would make a star not the greatest star,
Only the dreariest.

That book on the highest shelf
Is not the greatest book;
If you would be great, it must be in yourself,
Neither by place nor look.

The Highest is not high
By being higher than others;
To greatness you come not a step more nigh
By getting above your brothers.
III.

Willie speaks.
I meant the boys at school,
I did not mean my brother.
Somebody first, is there the rule-
It must be me or another.
The Father answers.

Oh, Willie, it's all the same!
They are your brothers all;
For when you say, 'Hallowed be thy name!'
Whose Father is it you call?
Could you pray for such rule to
him?
Do you think that he would hear?
Must he favour one in a greedy whim
Where all are his children dear?

It is right to get up and do,
But why outstrip the rest?
Why should one of the many be one of the few?
Why should you think to be best?

Eventually his father tells him what true greatness is and how to achieve it. But he is still uncertain as to what he must do. His father tells him to listen and hear God’s voice.
Willie speaks.
Father, I'm listening so
To hear him if I may!
His voice must either be very low,
Or very far away!
The Father answers.
It is neither hard to hear,
Nor hard to understand;
It is very low, but very near,
A still, small, strong command.
Willie answers.
I do not hear it at all;
I am only hearing you
The fathers answer is simple, yet profound.

The poem is called "Willie's Question," and is available below. 

A short note about the poem

The ambition he's talking about in the poem is the ambition to be better than others. Ambition to be something (e.g. a doctor) in order to help others is a good thing. 

Willie's Question