In my 8th grade social studies class two decades ago, we studied the following poem, recollected from memory:

Life is but a savage test
of who is least and who is best.
Those who fall may lack the wit.
The winners are the ones most fit.
This may seem harsh, but shun the whine.
Take in your breath, and toe the line.
Who will be the ones who lose?
Tis’ for God, not us, to choose.

If I recall correctly, it was in the context of studying the social Darwinism that predominated in the US during Gilded Age.

But upon Googling, not a single phrase in that poem is turning up any results. So who wrote this poem and when?

  • This sounds awfully familiar ... no idea where I've seen it before, but at least can confirm your memory isn't playing tricks on you :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Nov 16, 2020 at 1:24
  • @Randal'Thor Thanks! And yeah, it would be an awfully powerful memory that makes up a poem out of whole cloth, with correct rhyming and meter. Nov 16, 2020 at 1:46

1 Answer 1


This master's thesis Analysis and Development of Post Secondary Curriculum on Sustainability, submitted by Miki Machell White in May 2000 at the University of North Texas, includes the poem on p. 156. The next page attributes it to an unnamed "American businessman of the 1880s". So your recollection is correct, it is indeed a Gilded Age poem about social Darwinism. Unfortunately, the thesis does not provide any source information for the poem that I could find.

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