Be kind to the old man, while strong in thy youth –
Be kind, not in seeming alone, but in truth;
He once was as young and as hopeful as thou,
With a bosom as light, as unwrinkled a brow.
Be kind to the poor man, and give of thy bread,
With shelter and pillow to comfort his head;
His lot and thine own may be one ere he dieth,
Or neighbour to thine the low grave where he lieth.
Be kind to the young, for their path may e steep,
And the pitfalls around them full may and deep;
If they’re week five them help, and good counsel if strong,
And lead them by honest counsel along.
Be kind to the crooked, the lame, and the blind –
What’s lacked in the body they feel in the mind;
And while virtue through trial and pain cometh forth,
In the mind, not the body, is man’s truest worth.
Be kind to the fallen, who lives but to mourn;
Be kind to the outcast, who seeks to return;
Be kind to the hardened, who never hath pray’d;
Be kind to the timid, who still is afraid.
The injured, who down by oppression is borne;
The slighted, who withers; the victim of scorn;
The flatter’d, who topples aloft, but to fall;
The wronger and wronged – oh, be kindly to all!
For vast is the world of the generous mind,
And narrow the sphere to the selfish assigned;
And clear is the path of the gentle and true –
Of the haughty and vain, how delusive the view!
Then unto the old show respect while thou mayest –
The poor, while to Him who give all things thou prayest;
The weak or the lost, ‘neath the lead of his sorrow,
And thy own cup of joy shall o’erflow ere the morrow.

Title:Be Kind

Author:Spencer T. Hall

Publication:Ashton and Stalybridge Reporter

Published in:Ashton-under-Lyne

Date:Dec 5th 1863

Keywords:charity, morality


This poem is comprised of 8 quatrains in iambic pentameter with an AABBCCDD rhyme scheme. There is a clarity and predictability to the couplet end rhymes as well as the periods that neatly conclude every quatrain. Because the reader anticipates a completed end rhyme, when they are met with this sonic reward they feel satisfied. The sentiment of ease is also evoked through this use of consistent end-rhymes, which informs the actual content and message of the poem: To be kind, to be generous, to look out for your fellow human beings can be easy. It is as simple as a nursery rhyme. The majority of the lines also contain medial caesuras, which create pauses after the sustained litany of “Be Kind” to further emphasize the poem’s major point. At the same time, the litany of “Be kind” resembles the religious language of prayers. This formal choice adds more weight to the suggestion by connecting the mission of kindness to the religious responsibility of acting as a standup citizen and caring human being. The poem’s final line promises that the reward for this behavior is joy, which again calls upon the religious designation that joy can be an ultimate value and goal. This poem balances an acknowledgement of those suffering with an active advisement for the readers’ action. The speaker accounts for those enduring the Cotton Famine while extending its reach to all people in conditions of hardship: the injured, the oppressed, the outcast, the poor, the old, the disabled etc. The poem attempts to capture the ubiquity of life’s tragedy by listing and drilling off these circumstances until the speaker feels overwhelmed and exclaims “Oh, be kindly to all!” (24). In an effort to incite empathy, the reader is brought up close to these suffering people. Through some comparison, they are made to see themselves and recognize their advantageous and powerful position. Most importantly, the urgency for action both encompasses and transcends the current moment. Kindness should be offered to those struggling during the Cotton Famine, but it’s not exclusive to these hours of crisis. Kindness is meant for all and for always. Emmy Roday University of Exeter (Kenyon College, USA)