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Couldn’t and Could

Couldn’t and Could were two promising boys
Who lived not a great while ago.
They had just the same playmates and just the same toys,
And just the same chances for winning life’s joys,
And all that the years may bestow.

And Could soon found out he could fashion his life
On lines very much as he planned;
He could cultivate goodness and guard against strife,
He could have all his deeds with good cheer to be rife,*
And build him a name that would stand.

But poor little Couldn’t just couldn’t pull through;
All the trials he met with a sigh;
When a task needed doing, he couldn’t, he knew;
And hence, when he couldn’t, how could he? Could you,
If you couldn’t determine you’d try?

So Could just kept building his way to success,
Not clouding his sky with a doubt;
But Couldn’t strayed into the Slough of Distress.
Alas! and his end is easy to guess—
Strayed in, but he couldn’t get out.

And that was the difference ‘twixt Couldn’t and Could:
Each followed his own chosen plan;
And when Couldn’t just wouldn’t, Could earnestly would,
And won with the watchword, “I can!”

* Rife means to be abounding or filled with.

Selected from Moral Lessons (see “Dear Reader” note).