VALUABLE POETRY: “Opportunity” by John James Ingalls.


John James Ingalls was a US senator from Kansas. Born in Middleton, Massachusetts in 1833, he graduated from Williams College in 1855. He was admitted to the bar in 1857 and later took an active interest in politics, becoming a State Senator in 1862. He was elected to the Kansas State Senate and later to the US Senate. Ingalls was an abolitionist and a staunch supporter of Civil Services reform. He frequently contributed to leading magazines and reviews. Senator Ingalls was a lover of the best literature. He wrote many celebrated articles on public affairs and many of a purely literary character.

It is said that the poem “Opportunity” was President Theodore Roosevelt’s favourite poem and that Roosevelt had framed and fixed this poem on his Presidential office wall.

Opportunity, it is famously said, knocks only once. John James Ingalls, a U.S. Senator from Kansas, penned an ode to this simple but profound principle in the mid-19th century, and it was said to have become Theodore Roosevelt’s very favorite poem. When he was president, an autographed copy of it was the only thing besides a portrait to hang in TR’s executive office in the White House. If the Bull Moose needed a potent reminder to listen for opportunity’s subtle call, we all surely do as well.

Master of human destinies am I;
Fame, love and fortune on my footsteps wait.
Cities and fields I walk. I penetrate
Deserts and seas remote, and, passing by
Hovel and mart and palace, soon or late,
I knock unbidden once at every gate.

If sleeping, wake; if feasting, rise, before
I turn away. It is the hour of fate,
And they who follow me reach every state
Mortals desire, and conquer every foe
Save death; but those who hesitate
Condemned to failure, penury and woe,
Seek me in vain, and uselessly implore.
I answer not, and I return no more.


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