Tis The Set Of The Sail -- Or -- One Ship Sails East

But to every mind there openeth,
A way, and way, and away,
A high soul climbs the highway,
And the low soul gropes the low,
And in between on the misty flats,
The rest drift to and fro.

But to every man there openeth,
A high way and a low,
And every mind decideth,
The way his soul shall go.

One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
'Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.

Like the winds of the sea
Are the waves of time,
As we journey along through life,
'Tis the set of the soul,
That determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Other poems of WHEELER WILCOX (563)

Comments (3)

Correct the pronunciation of winds.
I read this many times to my children when they were small. We talked about its meaning. Now that they are coming into adulthood and the tumult is hitting, this is a good reminder that our attitude, intent and actions mean a lot more than the circumstances we are in. In other words: It's not the hand your dealt but how you play it. Love it.
Since I first read it, some 15 years ago, I have reflected on its affect on almost daily thoughts, plans and efforts. To me the set of the soul is better represented as setting our intentions. Simply adjusting/directing my intentions and influencing the intentions of others, has set both me and some of the others on courses toward amazing accomplishments, acquisitions, and locations. I regret that I didn't come across this collection of simple, ye powerful words earlier in life.