Success Is Failure Turned Inside Out

John Greenleaf Whittier? Edgar Guest? Labor? Nellie Maxwell? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A popular poem about perseverance includes these lines:

When all is pressing you down a bit—
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

The poets John Greenleaf Whittier and Edgar A. Guest have both been credited. Would you please determine the actual author?

Quote Investigator: Edgar A. Guest was a very popular poet for several decades during the twentieth century, and his poems appeared in a syndicated newspaper column. On March 3, 1921 he published the following work: 1

Keep Going

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must—but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up, though the pace seems slow—
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out—
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.

During the decades after publication the work was broadly disseminated, but the attribution was often changed. In addition, words, phrases, and stanzas were sometimes altered or deleted.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Success Is Failure Turned Inside Out


  1. 1921 March 3, The Indianapolis Star, Just Folks by Edgar A. Guest (Syndicated), Quote Page 6, Column 4, Indianapolis, Indiana. (Newspapers_com)