A Nation's Strength
What makes a nation's pillars high
And its foundations strong?
What makes it mighty to defy
The foes that round it throng?
It is not gold. Its kingdoms grand
Go down in battle shock;
Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,
Not on abiding rock.
Is it the sword? Ask the red dust
Of empires passed away;
The blood has turned their stones to rust,
Their glory to decay.
And is it pride? Ah, that bright crown
Has seemed to nations sweet;
But God has struck its luster down
In ashes at his feet.
Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor's sake
Stand fast and suffer long.
Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly...
They build a nation's pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.
"A Nation's Strength" first appeared in Our Little Kings and Queens at Home and at School (Louis Benham & Co., 1891). This poem is in the public domain.
William Ralph Emerson
William Ralph Emerson, born in 1833, was an architect and the second cousin of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He worked to design several of the first buildings for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. He died in Milton, Massachusetts, in 1917.
Date Published: 1847-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/nations-strength