Excelsior: The Quest for Excellence


The quest for excellence, in writing, as in any other field, is all about blood, sweat and tears. In other words, hard work. Consistently doing what you do, incessantly, relentlessly, again and again, making your middle name to be “Perseverance”.

Yes, there are the talented ones, those whom destiny smiled on upon birth. It is of little use, this fate, if one is not disposed to the arduous labor of perfecting the ability one has been gifted with. The poet Longfellow comes to mind. In his day, he was brilliant. He thought of poetry as being akin to music. Indeed, he is supposed to have said that a writer of poetry does not ask his reader to like the poem, but rather to listen to it, to hear it…

Longfellow was on a quest for excellence. At a fairly young age he settled on his path, and diligently applied himself. His reward for his efforts were not long in coming, he waited not, as many a poet has, until after his death, to receive the approval of the masses.

Excelsior! Blood, sweat and tears… If you want to achieve greatness, in whatever it is you want to be great at, I say to you in the words of H. W. Longfellow: Excelsior!

According to Wikipedia, in his senior year, Longfellow wrote to his father about his aspirations: I will not disguise it in the least… the fact is, I most eagerly aspire after future eminence in literature, my whole soul burns most ardently after it, and every earthly thought centres in it… I am almost confident in believing, that if I can ever rise in the world it must be by the exercise of my talents in the wide field of literature…

He pursued his literary goals by submitting poetry and prose to various newspapers and magazines… Between January 1824 and his graduation in 1825, he had published nearly 40 minor poems.

Foto: Wikipedia

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

THE SHADES of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, ‘mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device,
Excelsior! 5

His brow was sad; his eye beneath,
Flashed like a falchion from its sheath,
And like a silver clarion rung
The accents of that unknown tongue,
Excelsior! 10

In happy homes he saw the light
Of household fires gleam warm and bright;
Above, the spectral glaciers shone,
And from his lips escaped a groan,
Excelsior! 15

“Try not the Pass!” the old man said;
“Dark lowers the tempest overhead,
The roaring torrent is deep and wide!”
And loud that clarion voice replied,
Excelsior! 20

“Oh, stay,” the maiden said, “and rest
Thy weary head upon this breast!”
A tear stood in his bright blue eye,
But still he answered, with a sigh,
Excelsior! 25

“Beware the pine-tree’s withered branch!
Beware the awful avalanche!”
This was the peasant’s last Good-night,
A voice replied, far up the height,
Excelsior! 30

At break of day, as heavenward
The pious monks of Saint Bernard
Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,
A voice cried through the startled air,
Excelsior! 35

A traveller, by the faithful hound,
Half-buried in the snow was found,
Still grasping in his hand of ice
That banner with the strange device,
Excelsior! 40

There, in the twilight cold and gray,
Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay,
And from the sky, serene and far,
A voice fell, like a falling star,

About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
This entry was posted in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s