Featured Poem: Be Not Content by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

This week’s Featured Poem, Be Not Content, comes from American author and poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox. 

Born on Wisconsin farm in 1850, Ella Wheeler began writing poetry at a very early age. She was an established poet in her own state by the time she left school.

She was thought of as a popular poet, employing plainly written verse and rhyme to express sentiments of cheer and optimism which appealed to the general public much more than the work of her literary counterparts.

Wilcox died of cancer in October 1919.

Be not content


Be not content, contentment means inaction,
The growing soul aches on its upward quest;
Satiety is twin to satisfaction–
All great achievements spring from life’s unrest.

The tiny roots, deep in the dark mould hiding,
Would never bless the earth with leaf and flower
Were not an inborn restlessness abiding
In seed and germ, to stir them with its power.

Were man contented with his lot forever,
He had not sought strange seas with sails unfurled,
And the vast wonder of our shores had never
Dawned on the gaze of an admiring world.

Prize what is yours, but be not quite contented,
There is a healthful restlessness of soul
By which a mighty purpose is augmented
In urging men to reach a higher goal.

So when the restless impulse rises, driving
Your calm content before it, do not grieve;
It is the upward reaching of the spirit
Of the God in you to achieve, achieve.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

1 thought on “Featured Poem: Be Not Content by Ella Wheeler Wilcox”

  1. Thank you for this poem. In our local shared reading team we feel we have reached an important ‘turning’ point – a sort of springboard. Lots of roots in the earth and it’s time to see how beautifully the scheme can flower in our small town… We’re starting regular meet/catch up sessions with the read leaders and will start each session with a poem. This will be my choice for September 1- a day I always think of as the beginning of the new year, much more so than Jan 1.

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