Monday, March 21, 2011

Cheerfulness at Home

Adopho Auguste and His Family, 1891
by Jose Ferraz de Almeida Junior (1850 - 1899) Brazil

It is important to be on your best behavior at home, because these are the people you should least want to alienate. These are the ones you will want to have on your side when you have a special need. "A brother is born for adversity,"*  the Proverbs teach. Family members will be there for you when you need them, and therefore, it is good to cultivate their love and friendship first.
We need to refute the  false idea that since we are more relaxed at home, we can be more careless in the way we treat the family members: insulting them, offending them, behaving rudely, spreading an angry mood around, or poisoning the atmosphere with sharp replies and contradictions.
A New Game
by Federico Olaria (French, 1800's)
Keeping sour thoughts in captivity and not allowing them out to pollute the home, is more noble than letting them all out. Once they have escaped the mouth, they cannot be recalled, and may become part of your history. You are writing your story each day, and life is so very short. Young people are building the memories they will have to live with as older people, so it is essential that we teach them to be cheerful at home. To be cheerful even when one is not in the mood for it, is the sign of a truly noble person.
Our moods were not catered to in the old days, and I think we had happier homes because of it. The person who was out-of-sorts was admonished to spend some time in seclusion, perhaps in a room of her own, outside on the porch, or just going for a walk, to clear up her mind. It was considered quite damaging to other family members to impose your grumpiness on everyone else in the home.  It was actually a very rude, inconsiderate thing to snap at someone, contradict, or look on the dark side of everything.
 Albert Taylor "Quiet Moments" 1889
Contrariness, arguing, and pessimism can plague adults as well as children. One way to overcome these maladies is to look on the sunny side of life.  Behind every cloud is a silver lining. Look for advantages to every situation, and you will find them.  It is so important to develop the positive outlook in life so that you have some cheerfulness stored up for the hard times.  The habit of looking for light in darkness, possibilities in impossible places, and  being constructive in destruction, is an immeasurable quality.  Grumpiness makes burdens heavier;  contrary, contradictory comments in the family puts a layer of gloom on  the home.  I have seen situations in a cheerful home, where one of the bunch enters a room and decides to cast bitter emotions all around, silencing the cheerful laughter, the singing, the friendly banter between family members.

A Victorian Family Kneels to Say Their Prayers Together
To make home life the most beautiful and the most pleasant it can possibly be, members of the home should be careful not to allow any discordant note escape their tongues. Parents need to be alert to any tendency on the part of their children to mope, pout, or create a constant uproar. Children should learn to be peaceful at home. Often they understand that they cannot cause trouble in public, at church, or in the market, and yet feel free to "let down at home" and make everyone around them miserable. When this is not corrected, these children become adults with negative attitudes, always finding fault and always discontent.
In the 1940's and 50's when my generation was still young, many of us were taught the cheerful poetry of Edgar Guest, who was known as The Family Poet.  Faced with problems or disappointments, our parents would quote these poems to us, which we later fell back on when confronted with any stress. This poet came to the United States from England, and remained to become a naturalized citizen.  You can read more about Edgar Guest here.
Guest was also the author of a poem that I have posted here several times, called "Somebody Said It Couldn't Be Done," which many a young person in the 1950's memorized.  His kind of poetry is partly what built a nation of can-do-ers and independent people possessing resourcefulness and industriousness at home.Scroll to the end of the poetry page of Edgar A. Guest and click on some of the categories for more inspiration.  Scroll down the page here to find more of this great poetry.
Frontier Father Reading to His Children, 1860
I would recommend that people of all ages, and in particular, home school children, memorize the following poems of Edgar Guest, and memorize them with good expression and feeling. He is my favorite poet: the poet of purpose, in my opinion. His poems reflect the values that ordinary families were taught, back in the days when no one wanted to be a burden on anyone.  Have your children practice these poems aloud, and do quote them often yourself, to help them become cheerful in the home.

I particularly like, "At the Door" which is included here.

Take Home A Smile

Edgar Guest

Take home a smile; forget the petty cares,
The dull, grim grind of all the day's affairs;
The day is done, come be yourself awhile:
To-night, to those who wait, take home a smile.

Take home a smile; don't scatter grief and gloom
Where laughter and light hearts should always bloom;
What though you've traveled many a dusty mile,
Footsore and weary, still take home a smile.

Take home a smile -- it is not much to do,
But much it means to them who wait for you;
You can be brave for such a little while;
The day of doubt is done -- take home a smile.

A Victorian English Family Offerring Prayer at the Dinner Table

See It Through

Edgar Guest

When you're up against a trouble,
Meet it squarely, face to face;
Lift your chin and set your shoulders,
Plant your feet and take a brace.
When it's vain to try to dodge it,
Do the best that you can do;
See it through!

Black may be the clouds about you
And your future may seem grim,
But don't let your nerve desert you;
Keep yourself in fighting trim.
If the worst is bound to happen,
Spite of all that you can do,
Running from it will not save you,
See it through!

Even hope may seem but futile,
When with troubles you're beset,
But remember you are facing
Just what other men have met.
You may fail, but fall still fighting;
Don't give up, whate'er you do;
Eyes front, head high to the finish.
See it through!



Edgar Guest

He wiped his shoes before his door,
But ere he entered he did more;
'Twas not enough to cleanse his feet
Of dirt they'd gathered in the street;
He stood and dusted off his mind
And left all trace of care behind.
"In here I will not take," said he,
"The stains the day has brought to me.

"Beyond this door shall never go
The burdens that are mine to know;
The day is done, and here I leave
The petty things that vex and grieve;
What clings to me of hate and sin
To them I will not carry in;
Only the good shall go with me
For their devoted eyes to see.

"I will not burden them with cares,
Nor track the home with grim affairs;
I will not at my table sit
With soul unclean, and mind unfit;
Beyond this door I will not take
The outward signs of inward ache;
I will not take a dreary mind
Into this house for them to find."

He wiped his shoes before his door,
But paused to do a little more.
He dusted off the stains of strife,
The mud that's incident to life,
The blemishes of careless thought,
The traces of the fight he'd fought,
The selfish humors and the mean,
And when he entered he was clean.

Family Reunion, by Frederic Bazille, 1867

The Finer Thought

Edgar Guest

How fine it is at night to say:
I have not wronged a soul to-day.
I have not by a word or deed,
In any breast sowed anger's seed,
Or caused a fellow being pain;
Nor is there on my crest a stain
That shame has left. In honor's way,
With head erect, I've lived this day.

When night slips down and day departs
And rest returns to weary hearts,
How fine it is to close the book
Of records for the day, and look
Once more along the traveled mile
And find that all has been worth while;
To say: In honor I have toiled;
My plume is spotless and unsoiled.

Yet cold and stern a man may be
Retaining his integrity;
And he may pass from day to day
A spirit dead, in living clay,
Observing strictly morals, laws,
Yet serving but a selfish cause;
So it is not enough to say:
I have not stooped to shame to-day!

It is a finer, nobler thought
When day is done and night has brought
The contemplative hours and sweet,
And rest to weary hearts and feet,
If man can stand in truth and say:
I have been useful here to-day.
Back there is one I chanced to see
With hope newborn because of me.

This day in honor I have toiled;
My shining crest is still unsoiled;
But on the mile I leave behind
Is one who says that I was kind;
And someone hums a cheerful song
Because I chanced to come along.
Sweet rest at night that man shall own
Who has not lived his day alone.

The Hatch Family, 1870
by Jonathon Eastman Johnson


Edgar Guest

Life is a gift to be used every day,
Not to be smothered and hidden away;
It isn't a thing to be stored in the chest
Where you gather your keepsakes and treasure your best;
It isn't a joy to be sipped now and then
And promptly put back in a dark place again.

Life is a gift that the humblest may boast of
And one that the humblest may well make the most of.
Get out and live it each hour of the day,
Wear it and use it as much as you may;
Don't keep it in niches and corners and grooves,
You'll find that in service its beauty improves.

From the book "A Heap o' Livin'" ©1916


I believe that the home is sacred and should not be plagued with the terror of uncertainty contained in disruptive arguing, contradicting, disgruntled resentment, accusations and disrespect of the elderly.  No matter how much society seemingly progresses, mankind is always plagued with correcting the same problems, generation after generation. We must use the Bible as our authority and guide in manners and conduct. Ladies and gentlemen will come from homes where people value peaceful behavior and respect.

*Proverbs 17:17

2nd Corinthians 10:5 - Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

Portrait of a Family, 1800
by Joseph Marcellin Combette 1770-1840,


Edgar Guest - 1916 - A Heap o' Livin'

Can't is the worst word that's written or spoken;
Doing more harm here than slander and lies;
On it is many a strong spirit broken,
And with it many a good purpose dies.
It springs from the lips of the thoughtless each morning
And robs us of courage we need through the day;
It rings in our ears like a timely sent warning
And laughs when we falter and fall by the way.

Can't is the father of feeble endeavor,
The parent of terror and halfhearted work;
It weakens the efforts of artisans clever,
And makes of the toiler an indolent shirk.
It poisons the soul of the man with a vision,
It stifles in infancy many a plan;
It greets honest toiling with open derision
And mocks at the hopes and the dreams of a man.

Can't is a word none should speak without blushing;
To utter it should be a symbol of shame;
Ambition and courage it daily is crushing;
It blights a man's purpose and shortens his aim.
Despise it with all of your hatred of error;
Refuse it the lodgement it seeks in your brain;
Arm against it as a creature of terror,
And all that you dream of you someday shall gain.

Can't is the word that is foe to ambition
An enemy ambushed to shatter your will;
Its prey is forever the man with a mission
And bows but to courage and patience and skill.
Hate it, with hatred that's deep and undying,

For once it is welcomed 'twill break any man;
Whatever the goal you are seeking, keep trying
And answer this demon by saying: "I can."

A friend of mine who likes the message in this poem has a clever rule for her homeschool children: "Thou shalt not can't."  It is not intended to be a double negative.


Anonymous said...

Good Morning Lady Lydia!

From the bottom of my heart,may I dearly thank you so much for this so beautiful post!
Sweet Blessings from:

Anonymous said...


Another fantastic post! the home is a place of refreshment and relief from the clammor of the world around us...

Your link to the 'edgar Guest' poem 'It couldn't be done' made me think of a song by the brothers Tim and Neil Finn from new Zealand they've called Australia home for well over three decades now) and put out a song 'Couldn't be done' some time back. It is along a similar theme, its opening lines being 'We had no idea that it couldn't be done' 'All we needed to find was a like-minded someone' 'who had no idea that it couldn't be done'...

the post modern world tells us every waking hour that 'it couldn't possibly be done'...the healthy, happy, faith-filled, balanced family home, the triumphing as a family through adversity and the hard times, the embracing of the beautiful, the modest, the surrene...

yes, we all had no idea that it couldn't be done - so we went out and did it regardless - much to the shock of the naysayers who trumpet 'it couldn't be done'...just smile and accept the modern reality'...

yes, we have all cried tears over what can be a painfully lonely road in our wider family contexts, in our churches, in our friendship circles, in our community - but we are doing it anyway because of and to shine forth the glory of God...

A link to the Fin brothers song...
When I first heard it, I thought of you, Lydia, who had no idea (according to the world and much of the Church) that it couldn't be done, so with your 'likeminded someones' went right along and did it anyway - shining a light your ministering light of hope to us all, reaching even those of us who are half way around the world giving us hope and happiness.

IN a nutshell, the Finn brother's song is saying (don't listen for an instant to the naysayers who will come up with all manner of reasons why it can't be done.'

What the world refuses to acknowledge, and many Christians, sadly, also, is that all things are possible through Christ who strengthens us!!

Keep on doing what you are doing regardless of the fact that the world has said 'it couldn't be done'!

I pray for your 'Home Living' ministry daily, for you and your family's continuing health and ability to witness to God in your lives.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. This will be my language (and character!) lesson for the kids today.

Anonymous said...

Delightful post! Thank you for acquainting me with the poetry of Edgar Guest.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post. So true. I agree on the children, but also true for adults.

~ Ann

LadyLydia said...

Sarah Elliot in Australia,

I listened to the song on you tube and thought that sending convicts to Australia in the 1700's must have been like sending Brer Fox to the briar patch! (i.e. Uncle Remus folklore.)

I just know I am going to visit you there someday.

Anonymous said...

What lovely poems. I have never read them before. This post is full of good reminders! Thank you!

LadyLydia said...

Edgar A. Guest poem collection contains a section about manliness. I would recommend that the home school boys memorize them and quote them with gusto. One on this post, "See it Through" has such a good message in courage and nobility. My favorite of the collection is "At the Door," which was likely addressed to men. It should be read to the young boys and young men at home.

LadyLydia said...

I added the poem "Can't" for homeschoolers. I couldnt resist it. Its such a wonderful poem. It should be read aloud to feel the full impact of it. Remember when you read a line that has no punctuation such as a comma or period, just read on to the next line in a full sentence. Maybe I can podcast some of this poetry so you can hear the way it is supposed to go. So, be sure to read "Can't" You may have to stop and define words, but it is worth it for the full impact of the poem.

LadyLydia said...


Are you in Romania?

Jill Farris said...

Great minds think alike:)! I posted Edgar Guests poem called Treasures on my blog two days ago. It is about the blessings of children.

Jill Farris

LadyLydia said...

Jill, on the site I posted, there are a few more poems about children!

In the bleak winters of my childhood, we would get a book in the mail called Ideals. There was always an Edgar Guest poem in it.

LadyLydia said...

Jill ...maybe you should post your blog so I can see the poem.

Anonymous said...

I just downloaded Edgar Guest's "Making a House a Home" from Open Library. It is a short but poignant essay with another of his lovely poems at the end. I would recommend it to all your readers.
Best wishes to you and your family.

LadyLydia said...

I really liked the message in the poem, "At the Door," because it shows the strong respect he had for the home; so strong that he would not pollute it with any terrible mood or talk or report. In our ultra casual society, people treat the home as though it were a pandora's box.

Anonymous said...

Thank you anonymous, for the open library information. I see that there are more of his books online, free. Here is a link:

I am able, in my area, to print 70 pages free every week at my local public library which really comes in handy for these online books! So much good reading, so little time!

Neo-Victorianist said...

Lydia, A very nice post, your blog is a blessing to many.


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