Week of Masculine Poems: “The Happy Warrior”

Week of Masculine Poems: “The Happy Warrior”


“Character of the Happy Warrior” was inspired by the inspirational leader, Lord Nelson. Known for his exceptional leadership, unconventional tactics, and excellent understanding of strategy, he won many battles. He rose through the ranks of the navy very quickly due to his reputation of valor and firmness. He continued on fighting battles even after losing an arm in one and sight in his eye in another until his death in 1805. He was killed by a sharpshooter which ended in a victory for Britain and solidifying his legacy in England.

 Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he
That every man in arms should wish to be?
—It is the generous Spirit, who, when brought
Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought
Upon the plan that pleased his boyish thought:
Whose high endeavours are an inward light
That makes the path before him always bright;
Who, with a natural instinct to discern
What knowledge can perform, is diligent to learn;
Abides by this resolve, and stops not there,
But makes his moral being his prime care;
Who, doomed to go in company with Pain,
And Fear, and Bloodshed, miserable train!
Turns his necessity to glorious gain;
In face of these doth exercise a power
Which is our human nature’s highest dower:
Controls them and subdues, transmutes, bereaves
Of their bad influence, and their good receives:
By objects, which might force the soul to abate
Her feeling, rendered more compassionate;
Is placable—because occasions rise
So often that demand such sacrifice;
More skillful in self-knowledge, even more pure,
As tempted more; more able to endure,
As more exposed to suffering and distress;
Thence, also, more alive to tenderness.
—’Tis he whose law is reason; who depends
Upon that law as on the best of friends;
Whence, in a state where men are tempted still
To evil for a guard against worse ill,
And what in quality or act is best
Doth seldom on a right foundation rest,
He labours good on good to fix, and owes
To virtue every triumph that he knows:
—Who, if he rise to station of command,
Rises by open means; and there will stand
On honourable terms, or else retire,
And in himself possess his own desire;
Who comprehends his trust, and to the same
Keeps faithful with a singleness of aim;
And therefore does not stoop, nor lie in wait
For wealth, or honours, or for worldly state;
Whom they must follow; on whose head must fall,
Like showers of manna, if they come at all:
Whose powers shed round him in the common strife,
Or mild concerns of ordinary life,
A constant influence, a peculiar grace;
But who, if he be called upon to face
Some awful moment to which Heaven has joined
Great issues, good or bad for human kind,
Is happy as a Lover; and attired
With sudden brightness, like a Man inspired;
And, through the heat of conflict, keeps the law
In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw;
Or if an unexpected call succeed,
Come when it will, is equal to the need:
—He who, though thus endued as with a sense
And faculty for storm and turbulence,
Is yet a Soul whose master-bias leans
To homefelt pleasures and to gentle scenes;
Sweet images! which, wheresoe’er he be,
Are at his heart; and such fidelity
It is his darling passion to approve;
More brave for this, that he hath much to love:—
‘Tis, finally, the Man, who, lifted high,
Conspicuous object in a Nation’s eye,
Or left unthought-of in obscurity,—
Who, with a toward or untoward lot,
Prosperous or adverse, to his wish or not—
Plays, in the many games of life, that one
Where what he most doth value must be won:
Whom neither shape or danger can dismay,
Nor thought of tender happiness betray;
Who, not content that former worth stand fast,
Looks forward, persevering to the last,
From well to better, daily self-surpast:
Who, whether praise of him must walk the earth
For ever, and to noble deeds give birth,
Or he must fall, to sleep without his fame,
And leave a dead unprofitable name—
Finds comfort in himself and in his cause;
And, while the mortal mist is gathering, draws
His breath in confidence of Heaven’s applause:
This is the happy Warrior; this is he
That every man in arms should wish to be.
– William Wordsworth

Simplified Summary

In this poem, Wordsworth is answering his own question. The Happy Warrior is a generous spirit, who, even though has experienced the harshness of real life, has not displeased his innocence. The Happy Warrior is always ready to learn and is most concerned with moral development. He is bound to experience pain, fear, and loss yet he turns these events into positives by understanding what he can learn from them. The Happy Warrior is knowledgeable of self similar to the philosophy of many stoics to “know thyself.” The Happy Warrior knows that the reason we go through temptation, stress, and suffering is to train ourselves. With exposure to temptation, we are able to endure more; with exposure to stress we are able to be calmer; with exposure to suffering we are more tender with others. His law is reason and all his triumphs are due to his virtue. He rises through the ranks transparently and he quits his position before he does anything dishonorable because he is not only for his own advancement. During the rise of great issues that could positively or negatively affect humankind, he is found to be as happy as ever. Although he is well accustomed to hectic environments, he yearns for a calm and gentle environment. The happy warrior is unconcerned with how well to do, how well known, or esteemed he is. He is only desires to be better than he once was. He knows that nothing else matters except that he is confident in his cause, for that is all that is needed for the approval from Heaven – the greatest achievement for man.



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