The Head, Nicola Huggett

A few thoughts on Courage

I wanted to read you a poem I heard last Sunday, recited in our School Chapel during the annual Service for Police Memorial Day, which was held here at the request of the Devon and Cornwall Police. One of the really good and worthwhile things about being a prestigious School with beautiful historic buildings like this is the connection that we have with the local community. It is a great privilege to be asked, as we often are, to host local community events and this important event was no exception. You can imagine what this poem, called ‘Courage’ by Edgar Guest, meant to the families who came together here last weekend to remember their loved ones who died in the past year while serving as Police Officers. But it is also a poem that can be relevant to us in many other ways too. It is relevant to our remembrance of the catastrophic events for the young men fighting on the Somme battlefields 100 years ago this year. The poem was indeed written in 1916 in their memory. But I believe it is also relevant for all of us, in relation to all those things which happen to us here at School; unwanted and unexpected things, that demand us to show courage on a daily basis. I hope it touches a chord with you as it did with me.

‘Courage’ by Edgar A. Guest (circa 1916)

Courage isn’t a brilliant dash,
A daring deed in a moment’s flash;
It isn’t an instantaneous thing
Born of despair with a sudden spring
It isn’t a creature of flickered hope
Or the final tug at a slipping rope;
But it’s something deep in the soul of man
That is working always to serve some plan.

Courage isn’t the last resort
In the work of life or the game of sport;
It isn’t a thing that a man can call
At some future time when he’s apt to fall;
If he hasn’t it now, he will have it not
When the strain is great and the pace is hot.
For who would strive for a distant goal
Must always have courage within his soul.

Courage isn’t a dazzling light
That flashes and passes away from sight;
It’s a slow, unwavering, ingrained trait
With the patience to work and the strength to wait.
It’s part of a man when his skies are blue,
It’s part of him when he has work to do.
The brave man never is freed of it.
He has it when there is no need of it.

Courage was never designed for show;
It isn’t a thing that can come and go;
It’s written in victory and defeat
And every trial a man may meet.
It’s part of his hours, his days and his years,
Back of his smiles and behind his tears.
Courage is more than a daring deed:
It’s the breath of life and a strong man’s creed.