In The Long Run
Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s “In the Long Run” takes on a comforting, yet idealistic,
tone. In its 28 lines, the poem tries to convey the message that ultimately, all
our sacrifices will pay off. In today’s world, where the rich get richer and the
poor get poorer, this poem gives faith to those you have lost hope for a better
life in the present and in the long run.
In the present, people have strived to do their best. Whether it is for money, power, or simply greed, it is natural for humans to make goals for themselves. They believe that hard work, sweat, and perseverance will pay off. Often, this is not true. While a selected few genuinely succeed due to their talent, a greater number accomplish greatness, because of their last names, luck, connections, or good looks. This is reality, but in the poem, the speaker believes that “fame finds the deserving man” and that “…in good time true merit leads the van.” To the speaker, chance, destiny, or fate do not take a role in how our lives play it. We, solely, are responsible for our success. A person who deserves “true merit” for their “…work and wait” will overshadow “the lucky wight.”
As we age from a youth, when everything was simple and enjoyable, to adults, things become complicated, and we cope with more stress and tension. When people undergo “…righteous pain,” from the death of a loved one, a disastrous break-up, financial difficulty, or whatever reason, we are unable to sleep and experience “…awful thorn-crowned days.” This metaphor, comparing the days to rose thorns, is being used since the days are painful to live through and we hope for a quick end to them. However, these tears and anguish will “bring sure to reward,” according to the speaker. The reward that the speaker refers to could suggest a resolution for conflicts or a solution to a problem. In this respect, “sorrow yields a glourious dividend,” because we tend to value things that are obtained from angst and effort with more affection than “unmeaning joys."
In the end, the speaker also trusts that “…all hidden things are known.” “The eye of truth” will see through the “…the night” and “all [good or ill] will be known.” In this metaphor, personification is being used, when the truth is said to have all-seeing eyes. The metaphor continues with the comparison between deception and the night. Like lies, the night is dark, unclear, and mysterious. Similarly, when people lie, they tend to hide the truth to prevent their “unspoken motives” from being revealed. In the poem, however, no matter how well the secret “…is guarded from the light,” the truth will be “…fathomed by the years and stand confest.”
Lastly, and perhaps most important, in due course, “… all love is paid by love.” When harmful emotions seem to dominate human behaviour, there is always one to tame them all – love. It is one of the few things that can stand the test of time and spark other emotions like jealousy, hate, and pain. When one has true love, all the other pillars that form life – family, friendship, work, and health – seem to fall right into place. Therefore, we chase after others in hope of sharing a mutual love, but more so than not, love is not returned. This results in heartache and some “hosts of earth” giving up on love entirely. Nevertheless, “the great eternal Government above” will redeem the worth, of your love, by granting eternal happiness. The speaker urges reader to “give thy love freely” because lost love will be returned eventually. Despite the hurt attached to finding it, true love is worth it. It is because of this that the speaker instructs not to “...count the cost.”
To better exemplify her message, and add style, Ella Wheeler Wilcox uses poetic devices. The poem consists of four stanzas, with each ending with the same repeating line: “In the long run.” It also has a rhyme scheme of ABABCCD EFEFGGD HIHIJJD KLKLMMD. In the first stanza, personification is used twice when “…fame finds the deserving man” and “…Fortune smiles on those who work and wait.” In the second stanza, there are two more examples of personification: “…all goodly sorrow pays” and “…sorrow yields a glorious dividend.” In the last stanza, God is referred to as “the great eternal Government above.” This is a metaphor. Not only does God govern the “hosts of Earth” and their conduct, but he/she redeems love.
“In the Long Run” has many messages, but they all link to one greater idea. The poem encourages us to push ourselves to reach our full potential and to be persistent. In the end, our actions will be rewarded.
No matter how difficult things seem, and no matter how much we feel like giving up, a resolution will always be found. It also pushes us to be honest with ourselves and others. If we do try to keep secrets, the truth will be revealed, and the aftermath could be devastating. Finally, we are told not to quit our search for love. Although our love may not always be accepted, or returned, once we find it, it will be worth it. Everything will be resolved and redeemed in the end.