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The Quitter

I was captivated by one particular line of poetry as I was watching the story of Douglas Mawson, one of the greatest survival stories you’ve probably never heard. Mawson was a geologist & explorer during Antarctica’s golden age of exploration, sitting alongside names such as Roald Amundsen, Robert Falcon Scott, and Ernest Shackleton.

Douglas_mawson

During Mawson’s heroic ordeal, he had fallen into a crevasse, dangling at the end of his sled rope. He had no strength, he was thoroughly exhausted. There didn’t appear to be a way out. Just as he was giving up hope, one particular verse popped into his head..

Just have one more try — it’s dead easy to die,
    It’s the keeping-on-living that’s hard.

Mawson followed this mantra, pulled himself out of the crevasse and made it back to camp, nearly a month later. It would go down as one of the great survival tales and secure Mawson’s knighthood and even brief inclusion on the Australian $100 note.

I found it to be a truly captivating and poignant line, encapsulating no doubt, what willed Mawson to keep on moving, to survive and to live.

Here is the full poem by Robert Service, culminating in that epic verse..

 

The Quitter

Robert William Service [1874-1959]

 

When you’re lost in the Wild, and you’re scared as a child,
    And Death looks you bang in the eye,
And you’re sore as a boil, it’s according to Hoyle
    To cock your revolver and . . . die.
But the Code of a Man says: “Fight all you can,”
    And self-dissolution is barred.
In hunger and woe, oh, it’s easy to blow . . .
    It’s the hell-served-for-breakfast that’s hard.

“You’re sick of the game!” Well, now, that’s a shame.
    You’re young and you’re brave and you’re bright.
“You’ve had a raw deal!” I know — but don’t squeal,
    Buck up, do your damnedest, and fight.
It’s the plugging away that will win you the day,
    So don’t be a piker, old pard!
Just draw on your grit; it’s so easy to quit:
    It’s the keeping-your-chin-up that’s hard.

It’s easy to cry that you’re beaten — and die;
    It’s easy to crawfish and crawl;
But to fight and to fight when hope’s out of sight —
    Why, that’s the best game of them all!
And though you come out of each gruelling bout,
    All broken and beaten and scarred,
Just have one more try — it’s dead easy to die,
    It’s the keeping-on-living that’s hard.

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