To A Young Poet Who Killed Himself

When you had played with life a space
And made it drink and lust and sing,
You flung it back into God’s face
And thought you did a noble thing.
“Lo, I have lived and loved,” you said,
“And sung to fools too dull to hear me.
Now for a cool and grassy bed
With violets in blossom near me.”
Well, rest is good for weary feet,
Although they ran for no great prize;
And violets are very sweet,
Although their roots are in your eyes.
But hark to what the earthworms say
Who share with you your muddy haven:
“The fight was on — you ran away.
You are a coward and a craven.
“The rug is ruined where you bled;
It was a dirty way to die!
To put a bullet through your head
And make a silly woman cry!
You could not vex the merry stars
Nor make them heed you, dead or living.
Not all your puny anger mars
God’s irresistible forgiving.
“Yes, God forgives and men forget,
And you’re forgiven and forgotten.
You might be gaily sinning yet
And quick and fresh instead of rotten.
And when you think of love and fame
And all that might have come to pass,
Then don’t you feel a little shame?
And don’t you think you were an ass?”

Analysis, meaning and summary of Joyce Kilmer's poem To A Young Poet Who Killed Himself


  1. Paul Desrosiers says:

    Joyce Kilmer is full of disdain for this poet who killed himself. Why? Because he viewed this young poet’s suicide as purposeless. It accomplished nothing.
    I like the verse that says: “But hark to what the earthworms say who share with you your muddy haven “The fight was on- you ran away. You are a coward and a craven.” Do earthworms have these thoughts and do they voice them? No, Joyce Kilmer is using them to give voice to his own feelings about suicide. He realizes that life is HARD and sometimes has painful experiences that we have to bear. Life, as he sees it, is for the courageous. To commit suicide therefore is a cowardly act of running away from your problems.
    I learned this poem by heart as a young man. When I faced what I felt at times was overwhelmingly painful experiences or problems in my life, I remembered this poem to renew my courage for the future. We must put up the “good fight” at times in order to reach the “love and fame” that maybe ours.
    Thank you Joyce Kilmer for this inspiring poem!

  2. Stapley says:

    So this is amazing, and exactly what people should say any time someone commits suicide, because it’s stupid. Okay. Done now.

  3. Julie Morgana says:

    Harsh! But, right to the point, eh?

  4. a person says:

    i like this poem!

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