Be the Best of Whatever You Are


“Be the Best of Whatever You Are” is a motivational  poem written by Douglas Malloch. Douglas Malloch was a poet and short story writer from the United States. He was known as a “Lumberman’s Poet.” A lumberman, especially in North America, is someone who fells trees, cuts them into logs, or transports them to a sawmill. Among his most famous poems are ‘Echoes,’ ‘Good Timber,’ and ‘It is Fine Today.’

This poem, as the title suggests, is a bit of advise for everyone, especially young people. This piece of advice is quite useful in everyday situations. He is attempting to persuade us that we must strive to be the greatest in all we do. To express his message, he has chosen instances from nature. The poet wants us to understand that no work is less vital than another, and that we should not be ashamed of who we are. Although we all aspire to do great things and rise to the top, what counts most is the contribution we make to society in order for it to matter. We must be proud of our work and put in our best effort to complete it. It is nice to be a pine tree on top of the hill, but being the best shrub alongside the stream that beautifies the valley is even better.

Until now, this idea has guided and enhanced all successful people’s mental powers, resulting in their success.

Moreover, he claimed that none of us were made for no reason. Our purpose, on the other hand, is hidden someplace in this world. Finding our purpose in life, excelling at it, and achieving success are all part of the journey. Because it discusses the multitude of options in existence, the poem has a pluralistic perspective on life.

Summary of the Poem – Be the Best of Whatever You Are

The poem begins by alluding to the purpose of existence in an indirect manner. The purpose of life is to shape ourselves and to live. In this regard, the poet presents the reader with some of the possibilities. He asserts that if your circumstances preclude you from becoming a pine on the apex of hell, this does not mean the end of existence. You can still become a small scrub alongside the stream that beautifies the valley. The poet here establishes the poem’s central theme: be the best little scrub. He is indicating that what matters is how well you have fashioned yourself. By referring to ‘pine’ and ‘scrub,’ the poet conveys an additional message: the value of your existence is not determined by your size, but by your excellence.

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Again, the poet makes the same point by implying that if one cannot be a tree (which is often tall), one should be a blade of grass. The diameters of trees and grass are considerably different. However, the poet is once again referring to excellence, whether in the form of a tree or a blade of grass. The poet then discusses two fish: muskie and bass. He advises that if you are unable to become a muskie, you should become a bass, but you should be the most active bass on the lake. The poet asserts that not all of us can be captains; others must serve as crew. He is implying here that we must perform jobs that are appropriate for us. He reinforces the notion with instances of highway and trail, as well as sun and star. Finally, he states,

“It isn’t by size that you win or you fail.”

Theme of The Poem –  Be the Best of Whatever You Are

The theme of the poem is inspirational and instructional, making it a great didactic poem. The poet’s goal is to encourage us to live a positive life. The poem’s central message is that everyone, no matter how small, has their own significance. Whatever work we perform, we must do it in the most efficient manner. The Poet wishes to convey the message that every living thing has a specific job to play in our planet. Consequently, he advises us not to be concerned and instead to strive to be the best in our profession. Irrespective of the position we have, we should appreciate and enjoy our work. He used the example of a ship’s captain and crew to illustrate his point that no job is less vital than another in the world. “we can’t all be captains but we’ve got to be crew” says the author. Not only does the ship require a captain, but it also requires a well-trained crew in order to cruise smoothly over the waters. Everyone has some kind of work to accomplish in the world, whether it is minor or major. Douglas pulls inspiration from nature in order to convey a lovely message to the rest of the world. The poet uses nature as an example of contrasts, such as pine – scrub, bush – grass, muskie – bass, highway – trail, captain – crew, sun – star, and so on and so forth.

The Poet inspires us to strive for excellence in whatever we do in our lives.

Form and rhyme scheme

This is a 16-line poem with four quatrain stanzas (four lines in each stanza) with a ‘abab’ rhyme scheme.The word ‘hill’ at the end of the first line rhymes with ‘rill’ in the third line. The word ‘be’ in the second line rhymes with ‘tree’ in the fourth line. The rhyme scheme is repeated in all stanzas. Use of the conditional clauses beginning with ‘if’ gives the poem a good flow and supports the theme of the poem very well.

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Stanza Wise Summary of Be The Best…

Stanza 1

If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill
Be a scrub in the valley- but be
The best little scrub by the side of the rill;
Be a bush if you can’t be a tree

The poem begins with descriptions of natural phenomena. According to the poet, just because you cannot be a pine tree standing tall on the crest of a hill does not imply you are not deserving of being a part of the forest. You can always be the best scrub in the valley, growing alongside the rill (rivulet) and beautifying the valley. Although the tall pine trees form huge forests, the valley would lose its appeal if not for the scrub along the stream’s edge. Therefore, if not a pine tree, be the best scrub. He is attempting to convey the message that if you are unable to be the boss, be the best employee you can be. He continues by saying that if we are unable to be as powerful as a tree, we should strive to be as strong as a bush.

Stanza 2

If you can’t be a bush be a bit of the grass,
And some highway happier make;
If you can’t be a Muskie then just be a bass
But the liveliest bass in the lake!

He explains again that if we can not be a bush, we should be a tuft of grass because a tuft of grass beside the roadways can also make it nicer and happier. He then moves on to other areas of nature to establish his thesis. He claims that if you can not be a Muskie (popular name for Muskellunge fish), a rather unusual and unique freshwater fish native to North America, you should be a Bass (an edible fish) but the liveliest Bass in the lake. Muskies are valuable and difficult to capture, yet they are not popular among locals.

Stanza 3

We can’t all be captains, we’ve got be crew,
There’s something for all of us here.
There’s big work to do and there’s lesser to do,
And the task we must do is the near.

Douglas Malloch wishes us all happiness and optimism. He asserts that if we are unable to serve as captain, we can serve as crew. A captain cannot navigate the seas alone. He wants us to understand that there is always something for us and that we should be proud of ourselves regardless of our circumstances. He says that in modern culture, each task is significant in its own right and no task is to be embarrassed of. What would happen if everyone desired a career as a physician or a businessman? Who would be in charge of the society’s smaller jobs? There would be no one to keep our roads clean or repair our shoes. As a result, he adds that we should focus on the immediate task at hand rather than rushing toward larger objectives, as each job must be done.

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Stanza 4

If you can’t be a highway then just be a trail,
If you can’t be the sun then be a star;
It isn’t by size that you win or fail —
Be the best of whatever you are!

He continues in the final stanza by stating that if we are unable to be a highway, we can always be a narrow trail. Some of the most stunning aspects of nature are accessible only by trails, not freeways. He continues by stating that if we cannot be the colossal Sun, we should at least be a glittering star. According to him, size does not matter; what matters is how competent you are at what you do and whether you make a noticeable contribution to society. The poet closes the poem by emphasising once again that what matters is being the greatest in your area.

One thing we should not overlook is the poet’s capacity for observation. He has observed quite well that the smaller and less significant objects in nature attract our attention just as much as the larger and more significant ones do when and only when they enhance the beauty of their surroundings or elicit specific sensations in us. We see the sun as a significant celestial body, but we also gaze at the stars, which enhance the beauty of the night sky. We may be in awe of the enormous pine trees, but we also admire the green patches in valleys and along the roadside simply because they add beauty to nature and give us a wonderful feeling.

Douglas recognised this aspect of human nature and went to society in order to impart his knowledge. Similarly, we can establish our prominence by imitating the stars or patches of grass, if not the sun or the pine. To accomplish so, we must make visible contributions, which requires us to be the best in our respective disciplines, regardless of what we do.

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