Saturday, October 24, 2009

~ The Truth about Success ~


He has achieved success
who has lived well,
laughed often, and loved much;
who has enjoyed the trust of
pure women,
the respect of intelligent men and
the love of little children;
who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
who has left the world better than he found it
whether by an improved poppy,
a perfect poem or a rescued soul;
who has never lacked appreciation of Earth's beauty
or failed to express it;
who has always looked for the best in others and
given them the best he had;
whose life was an inspiration;
whose memory a benediction.

~1904 Bessie Anderson Stanley ~

I love this poem.
I love its simplicity...
It is often wrongly attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson.
However, I have included portions of a letter from Bethanne,
a relative of Bessie's, that tells the story behind the poem,
which is equally intriguing.

 "I was named for Bessie (Elisabeth Anne) and my gram always said I look very much like her. She died before I was born, so I never knew her, but the family is unanimous in saying she was the very definition of a warm and wonderful woman. My uncle Gene says she was the perfect grandmother. She was one of those people whose house was always full of guests, family, and neighbors all running in and out. She loved poetry and taking care of people and had a gorgeous iris garden, which was her favorite place.


Success was written as the winning entry in a contest run by Brown Book Magazine in 1904. Bessie won a cash prize of $250 which paid off the mortgage on the house, among other things. It was included in Bartlett's Book of Quotations for decades, and if you can find an old edition from the 30's or 40's, it should be in there. They dropped it, I think in the 60's, but I don't know why.

 The family isn't sure how the poem got mangled and attributed to Emerson, but it was further confused by Ann Landers and her sister Abby. Ann Landers used to (mis)quote it all the time and cite Emerson as the source. My great-uncle Art, a retired federal judge who died last March, and she had a decade-long correspondence as he argued for a public correction. She finally conceded and in her book, The Ann Landers Encyclopedia, prints the whole story.

 I think it's a beautiful poem, too. From what I've been told about her, it delineates her character perfectly. She lived what she wrote. And in these days, with our obsession for the material going full throttle, it's good to be reminded that true success is not measured in portfolios, stock options, or bank balances."

This information is from Robin at



  1. It is a beautiful poem and we would all do well to listen to its message. It is made even more lovely by the story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  2. I so agree with SMB, you've caught the essence of success with this post.

  3. Thank you sharing this and it is a beautiful poem. It captures and reminds of things that are often over looked.
    Also, thank you for your kind comments. I really appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and I am enjoying yours as well.

  4. What a completely gorgeous lady. And those leaves!

  5. Last time I was here I commented on beauty. And that is still true. But, I was thinking about it and I wanted to come back and thank you. I have long loved that quote, but I also thought it belonged to Emmerson. Thanks for this post. For the reminder and the chance to learn. And the beauty.


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