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Favorite "Virtue" Poems for student memory

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What are your favorite "virtue" poems? Do you have any resources for compilations of this sort of poem? (I have a list compiled *somewhere* on my computer, but I must have been pretty creative in its file name because I can't find it- ack!)

I'm interested in all of your favorites, but especially in the type of poem that has lists of virtue-phrases (such as found in Kipling's If) or virtue-words such as in the St. Francis Prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace; 
Where there is hatred, let me sow love; 
Where there is injury, pardon; 
Where there is doubt, faith; 
Where there is despair, hope; 
Where there is darkness, light; 
And where there is sadness, joy. 

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console; 
To be understood, as to understand; 
To be loved, as to love; 
For it is in giving that we receive, 
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, 
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. 


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I don't have a virtue poem per se that I have my student memorize, but I do have my students memorize Shakespeare sonnets and speeches. The closest I come (which I may not be able to do this year because of scheduling changes) is to have my students scan, analyze, and imitate John Donne's Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward as we approach the Easter season. It is a lovely poem and has a lot to teach students about poetry (and, I think virtue as well, though less explicitly) Here's my own analysis of the poem.

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by Alice Cary

True worth is in being, not seeming,—

In doing, each day that goes by,

Some little good—not in dreaming

Of great things to do by and by.

For whatever men say in their blindness,

And spite of the fancies of youth,

There’s nothing so kingly as kindness,

And nothing so royal as truth.

We get back our mete as we measure—

We cannot do wrong and feel right,

Nor can we give pain and gain pleasure,

For justice avenges each slight.

The air for the wing of the sparrow,

The bush for the robin and wren,

But always the path that is narrow

And straight, for the children of men.

’Tis not in the pages of story

The heart of its ills to beguile,

Though he who makes courtship to glory

Gives all that he hath for her smile.

For when from her heights he has won her,

Alas! it is only to prove

That nothing’s so sacred as honor,

And nothing so loyal as love!

We cannot make bargains for blisses,

Nor catch them like fishes in nets;

And sometimes the thing our life misses

Helps more than the thing which it gets.

For good lieth not in pursuing,

Nor gaining of great nor of small,

But just in the doing, and doing

As we would be done by, is all.

Through envy, through malice, through hating,

Against the world, early and late,

No jot of our courage abating—

Our part is to work and to wait

And slight is the sting of his trouble

Whose winnings are less than his worth.

For he who is honest is noble

Whatever his fortunes or birth.

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