I Can't and I Can

Be inspired by this poem written by William Allen Butler, The poem, I Can't and I Can, encourages us to confront the challenges we face in life with determination and courage.


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I Can't and I Can
Poet: William Allen Butler

As on through life's journey we go day by day,
There are two whom we meet, at each turn of the way,
To help or to hinder, to bless or to ban,
And the names of these two are "I Can't" and "I Can."

"I Can't" is a dwarf, a poor, pale, puny imp,
His eyes are half blind, and his walk is a limp;
He stumbles and falls, or lies writhing with fear,
Though dangers are distant and succor is near.

"I Can" is a giant; unbending he stands;
There is strength in his arms and skill in his hands;
He asks for no favors; he wants but a share
Where labor is honest and wages are fair.

"I Can't" is a sluggard, too lazy to work;
From duty he shrinks, every task he will shirk;
No bread on his board and no meal in his bag;
His house is a ruin, his coat is a rag.

"I Can" is a worker; he tills the broad fields,
And digs from the earth all the wealth which it yields;
The hum of his spindles begins with the light,
And the fires of his forges are blazing all night.

"I Can't" is a coward, half fainting with fright;
At the first thought of peril he slinks out of sight;
Skulks and hides till the noise of the battle is past,
Or sells his best friends, and turns traitor at last.

"I Can" is a hero, the first in the field;
Though others may falter, he never will yield;
He makes the long marches, he deals the last blow,
His charge is the whirlwind that scatters the foe.

How grandly and nobly he stands to his trust,
When, roused at the call of a cause that is just,
He weds his strong will to the valor of youth,
And writes on his banner the watchword of Truth!

Then up and be doing! the day is not long;
Throw fear to the winds, be patient and strong!
Stand fast in your place, act your part like a man,
And, when duty calls, answer promptly, "I Can!"




Summary :

The poem compares two attitudes, "I Can" and "I Can't," representing determination and defeatism. Using vivid imagery and storytelling, it highlights the significance of resilience, courage, and a positive mindset in confronting life's hurdles. This message encourages readers to adopt a proactive approach and confidently tackle challenges with the attitude of "I Can."


Application To Life:

The poem's message applies to everyday life by emphasizing the importance of mindset and attitude. It suggests that adopting a proactive, "I Can" approach can lead to greater success and fulfillment, while succumbing to a defeatist mentality, represented by "I Can't," can hinder progress and limit opportunities. By integrating determination, resilience, and positivity, individuals can overcome obstacles and achieve their goals.


I Can stands tall as a mighty giant, ready to tackle any obstacle with perseverance and resolve.


Examples of applying principles to modern-day life:

1) Someone with an "I Can" mentality would approach a goal or a task with determination and optimism. They would set clearly stated and measurable goals along with a detailed action plan to accomplish each step of their plan. With each step completed, the person would keep moving closer and closer to the final attainment of their goal. When faced with challenges or setbacks, they would view them as opportunities for growth and learning thereby persisting with resilience and adopting a positive attitude.

2) On the other hand, someone with an "I Can't" mentality would likely approach the same situation with doubt and negativity. They might focus on their perceived limitations or past failures, doubting their ability to succeed. As a result, they may procrastinate, make excuses, or avoid taking action altogether. When faced with challenges, they quickly become discouraged and give up, reinforcing their belief that they cannot succeed. This defeatist attitude limits their potential and prevents them from realizing their goals.

The poem compares two attitudes, "I Can" and "I Can't," representing determination and defeatism. Using vivid imagery and storytelling, it highlights the significance of resilience, courage, and a positive mindset in confronting life's hurdles. This message encourages readers to adopt a proactive approach and confidently tackle challenges with the mindset of "I Can."


Quotable Quotes:

"To help or to hinder, to bless or to ban, and the names of these two are “I Can’t" and “I Can."

"Then up and be doing! the day is not long; throw fear to the winds, be patient and strong!"

"I Can" is a hero, the first in the field; though others may falter, he never will yield.

"Throw fear to the winds, be patient and strong!"


Brief Biography of The Poet:

William Allen Butler was an American author and lawyer born on February 20, 1825. He died on September 9, 1902. Today his poems continue to have application in our lives and they continue to encourage people.


Poetic Structure:

This poem is structured as a contrast between two opposing characters "I Can" and "I Can't." The poem's form is predominantly narrative, using vivid imagery and direct language to portray the characteristics and actions of these two personas.

The poem employs a rhythmic and rhyming scheme, with an AABB rhyme scheme in each stanza. This consistent rhyme scheme helps maintain the poem's flow and adds to its readability and memorability.

Each stanza presents a new aspect of the contrast between "I Can't" and "I Can," illustrating their differences in terms of work ethic, courage, and determination.


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