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Written by Edgar Guest, this poem has four stanzas of four lines each. These four quatrains contain a series of questions addressed to the readers in order to make them rethink their words and actions. The poem emphasizes on the need to live one’s life in such a manner that one’s existence becomes helpful for others.
Is anybody happier because you passed his way? Does anyone remember that you spoke to him today? This day is almost over, and its toiling time is through; Is there anyone to utter now a kindly word of you?
The first stanza begins with the poet questioning the reader about his way of life. Every day that passes by in one’s life becomes worthy if one has made anybody happier with one’s actions or words. The measure of one’s achievements is not the material success. Rather, it depends on whether or not there is someone to say a kindly word about us.
Did you give a cheerful greeting to the friend who came along? Or a churlish sort of "Howdy" and then vanish in the throng? Were you selfish pure and simple as you rushed along the way, Or is someone mighty grateful for a deed you did today?
In this stanza, the poet lays emphasis on the effect that a cheerful greeting can have on someone. The way we greet others can affect their moods. Hence, a cheerful greeting always lifts spirits of the other person. Not only words, but one’s actions affect others greatly. So, we must act in such a way that someone is grateful for a deed we did for them.
Can you say tonight, in parting with the day that's slipping fast, That you helped a single brother of the many that you passed? Is a single heart rejoicing over what you did or said; Does a man whose hopes were fading now with courage look ahead?
As the days of one’s life are slipping fast, it becomes important to evaluate one’s life. Only when we introspect, do we realise our follies. Even if we help a single brother, that is, a single person out of the many in need, we lead our lives the right way. By saying “Is a single heart rejoicing over what you did or said”, the poet means that even if a single heart is filled with joy due to our deeds or actions, it is a precious act of kindness. If one can help fill courage in the heart of a man whose hopes were fading or whose spirits were low, one has lived one’s day correctly.
Did you waste the day, or lose it, was it well or sorely spent? Did you leave a trail of kindness or a scar of discontent? As you close your eyes in slumber do you think that God would say, You have earned one more tomorrow by the work you did today?
What determines whether a day was fully lived or not is what a person leaves behind each day. The kind of impression a person leaves on other’s through one’s gestures decides whether it was a day wasted or well-spent. Only those who leave a trail of kindness are remembered with admiration.
The poem concludes that life is lived in true sense only when it is lived for others. A self-centred person only wastes away his days. But those who live each day by bringing smiles on sad faces and lifting spirits of those in distress are God’s favourite people. By their kind actions and sweet words, they make God happy so that he may exclaim, “You have earned one more tomorrow by the work you did today”.