(O Gentlemen the time of Life is short—Henry IV)

The bitterness of days like these we know; 
Much, much we know, yet cannot understand 
What was our crime that such a searing brand 
Not of our choosing, keeps us hated so. 
Despair and disappointment only grow, 
Whatever seeds are planted from our hand, 
What though some roads wind through a gladsome land? 
It is a gloomy path that we must go. 

And yet we know relief will come some day
For those seared breasts; and lads as brave again
Will plant and find a fairer crop than ours. 
It must be due our hearts, our minds, our powers; 
These are the beacons to blaze out the way. 
We must plunge onward; onward, gentlemen. . . . 

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.