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About this Poem 

“Work” is part of a sixteen-poem sequence originally published in Lazarus’s 1871 collection Admetus and Other Poems.

Work

Yet life is not a vision nor a prayer,
But stubborn work; she may not shun her task.
After the first compassion, none will spare
Her portion and her work achieved, to ask.
She pleads for respite,—she will come ere long
When, resting by the roadside, she is strong.

Nay, for the hurrying throng of passers-by
Will crush her with their onward-rolling stream.
Much must be done before the brief light die;
She may not loiter, rapt in the vain dream.
With unused trembling hands, and faltering feet,
She staggers forth, her lot assigned to meet.

But when she fills her days with duties done,
Strange vigor comes, she is restored to health.
New aims, new interests rise with each new sun,
And life still holds for her unbounded wealth.
All that seemed hard and toilsome now proves small,
And naught may daunt her,—she hath strength for all.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Emma Lazarus

Emma Lazarus

Posthumously famous for her sonnet, "The New Colossus," which is engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty, Emma Lazarus is considered America's first important Jewish poet

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As when a father dies, his children draw 
About the empty hearth, their loss to cheat 
With uttered praise & love, & oft repeat 
His all-familiar words with whispered awe. 
The honored habit of his daily law, 
Not for his sake, but theirs whose feeble feet 
Need still that guiding lamp, whose faith, less
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An Apologue

No man had ever heard a nightingale,
When once a keen-eyed naturalist was stirred
To study and define—what is a bird,
To classify by rote and book, nor fail
To mark its structure and to note the scale
Whereon its song might possibly be heard.
Thus far, no farther;—so he spake the word
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"Since that day till now our life is one unbroken paradise. We live a true brotherly life. Every evening after supper we take a seat under the mighty oak and sing our songs." —Extract from a letter of a Russian refugee in Texas.

Twilight is here, soft breezes bow the grass,