Outwitted, An Epigram for Life–April is National Poetry Month


In searching for a short poem that from the first time I encountered it has influenced my life.  I first went searching in all the wrong places.  For one, I had for years attributed the few verses to Emily Dickensen, when in fact it was written by Edwin Markham.  I do love the internet for searching so I located Edwin and his poetry using the first few words of the poem.  Also I knew the lines, all four of them, but did not realize they were the middle section of a set, called Epigrams.

I was not sure of the definition of “epigram”, but sensed “epi” must come from the same root as “epilogue” and that “gram” must mean writting or letter.  Gotta love on-line dictionaries:


a pithy saying or remark expressing an idea in a clever and amusing way.
synonyms: witticism, quip, jest, pun, bon mot;
a short poem, especially a satirical one, having a witty or ingenious ending.

It turns out epigram’s usage hit its peak in the 19th Century and usage in the 21st Century is rare.

This site is nothing if not a sorce for trivia…I am trying to think of an occassion when I might interject the word into conversation and honestly have not come up with a single one.  However, I have it stored for possible use in Scrabble or Words with Friends.

Edwin Markham (born Charles Edward Anson Markham April 23, 1852 – March 7, 1940) was an American poet. From 1923 to 1931 he was Poet Laureate of Oregon. His most famous poem is “The Man with a Hoe”  based on the Millet painting by the same name.image   In 1922, Markham’s poem “Lincoln, the Man of the People” was selected from 250 entries to be read at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial. The author himself read the poem.

However, it is the short “Outwitted”, the middle child of Markham’s “Epigrams” that comes easily to mind and which expresses the true purpose of Christianity as Jesus taught. …for it centers not on doctrine or rules of order or human failure.  It challenges me not to build walls around my beliefs, shutting out those who taunt me, make fun of me, or call me names;  it challenges me to seek common ground without the mealy mouthed tolerance that simple chooses to ignore differences.  Mostly it challenges me to find ways to love folks who do not love me back.  Like Jesus said, it is easy to love the ones who love us, but he said, “love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.”

I realize this is way too much information to get to the point, but “Outwitted” does have circles in it, so after too much circling :

Epigrams by Edwin Markham


FOR all your days prepare,
And meet them ever alike:
When you are the anvil, bear–
When you are the hammer, Strike.

He drew a circle that shut me out–
Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!
The Avengers

The laws are the secret avengers,
And they rule above all lands;
They come on wool-soft sandals,
But they strike with iron hands.

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