Poets

Search more than 3,000 biographies of contemporary and classic poets.

Edgar Guest

1881–1959

On August 20, 1881, Edgar Guest was born in Birmingham, England, to Edwin and Julia Wayne Guest. The family settled in Detroit, Michigan, in 1891. When Edwin lost his job in 1893, eleven-year-old Edgar between working odd jobs after school. In 1895 he was hired as a copy boy for the Detroit Free Press, where he would work for almost sixty-five years. His father died when the poet was seventeen, and Guest was forced to drop out of high school and work full time at the newspaper. He worked his way up from a copy boy to a job in the news department. His first poem appeared on December 11, 1898. His weekly column, "Chaff," first appeared in 1904; his topical verses eventually became the daily "Breakfast Table Chat," which was syndicated to over three-hundred newspapers throughout the United States.

Guest married Nellie Crossman in 1906. The couple had three children. His brother Harry printed his first two books, Home Rhymes and Just Glad Things, in small editions. His verse quickly found an audience and the Chicago firm of Reilly and Britton began to publish his books at a rate of nearly one per year. His collections include Just Folks (1917), Over Here (1918), When Day Is Done (1921), The Passing Throng (1923), Harbor Lights of Home (1928), and Today and Tomorrow (1942).

From 1931 to 1942, Guest broadcast a weekly program on NBC radio. In 1951, "A Guest in Your Home" appeared on NBC TV. He published more than twenty volumes of poetry and was thought to have written over 11,000 poems. Guest has been called "the poet of the people." Most often, his poems were fourteen lines long and presented a deeply sentimental view of everyday life. He considered himself "a newspaper man who wrote verses." Of his poem he said, "I take simple everyday things that happen to me and I figure it happens to a lot of other people and I make simple rhymes out of them." His Collected Verse appeared in 1934 and went into at least eleven editions. Edgar Guest died on August 5, 1959.


A Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Home Rhymes, From "Breakfast Table Chat" (1909)
A Heap O' Livin' (1916)
Just Glad Tidings (1916)
Just Folks (1917)
Over Here (1918)
The Path to Home (1919)
A Dozen New Poems (1920)
Sunny Songs (1920)
When Day Is Done (1921)
All That Matters (1922)
The Passing Throng (1923)
Mother (1925)
The Light of Faith (1926)
You (1927)
Harbor Lights of Home (1928)
Rhymes of Childhood (1924)
Poems for the Home Folks (1930)
The Friendly Way (1931)
Faith (1932)
Life's Highway (1933)
Collected Verse of Edgar Guest (1934)
All in a Lifetime (1938)
Today and Tomorrow (1942)
Living the Years (1949)

Prose

Between You and Me: My Philosophy of Life (1938)

By This Poet

10

Father

My father knows the proper way 
   The nation should be run; 
He tells us children every day 
   Just what should now be done. 
He knows the way to fix the trusts, 
   He has a simple plan; 
But if the furnace needs repairs, 
   We have to hire a man. 


My father, in a day or two 
   Could land big thieves in jail; 
There's nothing that he cannot do, 
   He knows no word like "fail." 
"Our confidence" he would restore, 
   Of that there is no doubt; 
But if there is a chair to mend, 
   We have to send it out. 


All public questions that arise, 
   He settles on the spot; 
He waits not till the tumult dies, 
   But grabs it while it's hot. 
In matters of finance he can 
   Tell Congress what to do; 
But, O, he finds it hard to meet 
   His bills as they fall due. 


It almost makes him sick to read 
   The things law-makers say; 
Why, father's just the man they need, 
   He never goes astray. 
All wars he'd very quickly end, 
   As fast as I can write it; 
But when a neighbor starts a fuss, 
   'Tis mother has to fight it. 


In conversation father can 
   Do many wondrous things; 
He's built upon a wiser plan 
   Than presidents or kings. 
He knows the ins and outs of each 
   And every deep transaction; 
We look to him for theories, 
   But look to ma for action.

A Toast to the Men

Dedicated to the Women


Here's to the men! Since Adam's time 
      They've always been the same; 
Whenever anything goes wrong, 
      The woman is to blame. 
From early morn to late at night, 
      The men fault-finders are; 
They blame us if they oversleep, 
      Or if they miss a car. 
They blame us if, beneath the bed, 
      Their collar buttons roll; 
They blame us if the fire is out 
      Or if there is no coal. 
They blame us if they cut themselves 
      While shaving, and they swear 
That we're to blame if they decide 
      To go upon a tear. 


Here's to the men, the perfect men! 
      Who never are at fault; 
They blame us if they chance to get 
      The pepper for the salt. 
They blame us if their business fails, 
      Or back a losing horse; 
And when it rains on holidays 
      The fault is ours, of course. 
They blame us when they fall in love, 
      And when they married get; 
Likewise they blame us when they're sick, 
      And when they fall in debt. 
For everything that crisscross goes 
      They say we are to blame; 
But, after all, here's to the men, 
      We love them just the same!

On Quitting

How much grit do you think you've got? 
Can you quit a thing that you like a lot? 
You may talk of pluck; it's an easy word, 
And where'er you go it is often heard; 
But can you tell to a jot or guess 
Just how much courage you now possess? 


You may stand to trouble and keep your grin, 
But have you tackled self-discipline? 
Have you ever issued commands to you 
To quit the things that you like to do, 
And then, when tempted and sorely swayed, 
Those rigid orders have you obeyed? 


Don't boast of your grit till you've tried it out, 
Nor prate to men of your courage stout, 
For it's easy enough to retain a grin 
In the face of a fight there's a chance to win, 
But the sort of grit that is good to own 
Is the stuff you need when you're all alone. 


How much grit do you think you've got? 
Can you turn from joys that you like a lot? 
Have you ever tested yourself to know 
How far with yourself your will can go? 
If you want to know if you have grit, 
Just pick out a joy that you like, and quit. 


It's bully sport and it's open fight; 
It will keep you busy both day and night; 
For the toughest kind of a game you'll find 
Is to make your body obey your mind. 
And you never will know what is meant by grit 
Unless there's something you've tried to quit.