Press "Enter" to skip to content

The Label On the Bottle

From the Rock Island Argus, April 7, 1914. By Henry Howland.

They say that merit only gets the prizes here below,
    That honor is reserved for them who strive and who achieve;
They say that worth is certain to be recognized, but though
    ’Tis sweet to hear the story, it’s not easy to believe.
    The best, the oldest wine
    Wouldn’t seem so very fine
If the bottle bore no label for which cultured drinkers call;
    If they said ’twas cheap we’d not
    Give it praise in word or thought—
Much depends upon the label on the bottle after all.

The general whose forces ne’er have had to taste defeat
    May owe to luck his victories, may be the tool of chance,
But the enemy in terror makes arrangements to retreat
    When he gets into the saddle and gives orders to advance.
    The general who fell
    May have planned and ordered well,
But he had no reputation as a victor to appall;
    They that fought him fearlessly
    From his famed successor flee—
There is something in the label on the bottle, after all.

We would class as common drivel much that Scotland’s Bobbie writ
    If we didn’t know he wrote it and that hence it is sublime;
Much that Tennyson has left us, with an unknown name to it
    We would pass as being nothing but the common brand of rhyme.
    The medicine we drink
    Oft were better used as ink
But it clears away our headaches and from bed at length we crawl
    Full of joy and full of praise
    To go plunging in the frays—
There is something in the label on the bottle, after all.

Oh my boy, perhaps you’re trying in a quiet, humble way
    To be worthy of the prizes that we take to mean success;
Perhaps you’re meekly hoping for a sweet reward some day
    That they’ll hand out to another who you’ll know deserves it less.
    With the best that you can do
    You must flaunt your merit, too;
Wear the manner of the winner, do not humbly cringe and crawl.
    And the smiling fates will bow
    As they gladly wreath your brow—
Much depends upon the label on the bottle, after all.

Comments are closed.

Mission News Theme by Compete Themes.