It Couldn’t Be Done Poem by Edgar Albert Guest Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English for Students


The poem “It Couldn’t Be Done” is written by Edgar Albert Guest. This poem was published in his book of poetry, “The Path to Home”. It was published in 1919. Through this poem, he takes the chance to advise the readers to follow their hearts without doubting themselves. He wants the readers to achieve their goals without giving up for the sake of unnecessary words from the people around them.

About the poet:

Edgar Albert Guest is a British-born American poet. He is also known as “the people’s poet.” His poems often consist of an optimistic view of everyday life. Often, his poem contains fourteen lines. Through his poems, he presented an emotional view of life. He has published more than twenty volumes of poetry. He has written more than ten thousand poems. His concept behind his writing is to put forward the things happening in his everyday life with simple rhymes. Some of his famous poetry collections published are Just Folks (1917), Over Here (1918), When Day Is Done (1921), The Passing Throng (1923), Harbor Lights of Home (1928), and Today and Tomorrow (1942).


The poem “It Couldn’t Be Done” consists of three stanzas. Each stanza contains eight lines in total. Each stanza can be split up into two quatrains to get the two ideas. The poet has placed a full stop at each line to help the reader take a halt. But the two ideas are interconnected with each other. Thus, it has 24 lines in total.

Point of view:

The poem “It Couldn’t Be Done” is written from a third-person point of view. The poet has used two voices in the poem. One is the speaker who desires to achieve his goal. The second voice belongs to the voice of society, which demotivates the speaker. 


Through this poem, the poet is advising the readers to follow their hearts. There might be thousands of people waiting to demotivate the decisions we make in our lives. Society will be waiting to predict only failure in our lives. But just like the speaker who has accomplished the tasks in this poem, the poet wants us to follow our hearts. He wants us to get out of our comfort zone to succeed on the path we have taken.

Poem Analysis:

Stanza 1

Lines 1-4:

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done

      But he with a chuckle replied

That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one

      Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.

The society tells our speaker that the task he is trying to accomplish is difficult and cannot be done. To which our speaker, with a chuckle, replied “maybe it couldn’t”. The next line describes the nature of our speaker. Our speaker is not the one who gives up without trying it. So he is ready to start his work.

Lines 5-8:

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin

      On his face. If he worried he hid it.

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

      That couldn’t be done, and he did it!

Though our speaker has the same fear, he is not showing it. Instead, he starts to sing songs to escape the fear. He, with determination and willpower, achieved the task that seemed impossible to others.

Stanza 2

Lines 9-12:

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;

      At least no one ever has done it;”

But he took off his coat and he took off his hat

      And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.

Here comes another man who tries to discourage our speaker with his words. He says no one has completed doing this, so you will also fail at it. But our speaker, with his style, just replied not with words but with actions. He took off his coat and hat, and he began it.

Lines 13-16:

With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,

      Without any doubting or quiddit,

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

      That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Again, our speaker takes the same action when he starts to sing a song. But this time, he is not doubting himself. Our speaker, with his past experience, tackled the thing that seemed impossible to others.

Stanza 3

Lines 17-24:

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,

      There are thousands to prophesy failure,

There are thousands to point out to you one by one,

      The dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,

      Just take off your coat and go to it;

Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing

      That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

The last stanza is advice from the poet to the readers. He says that there can be thousands of people who tell you that you cannot succeed. There can be thousands of people who predict only failure. There can be thousands of people ready with their reasons to fear you. They may even tell unwanted stories about the dangers that await on the path you have chosen. But the poet asks us to come out of our comfort zone, like the speaker took off his coat. The poet advises the readers to sing songs with confidence and determination to accomplish things that seem impossible to others in society.