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Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

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A Grain Of Sand

If starry space no limit knows
And sun succeeds to sun,
There is no reason to suppose
Our earth the only one.
'Mid countless constellations cast
A million worlds may be,
With each a God to bless or blast
And steer to destiny.

Just think! A million gods or so
To guide each vital stream,
With over all to boss the show
A Deity supreme.
Such magnitudes oppress my mind;
From cosmic space it swings;
So ultimately glad to find
Relief in little things.

For look! Within my hollow hand,
While round the earth careens,
I hold a single grain of sand
And wonder what it means.
Ah! If I had the eyes to see,
And brain to understand,
I think Life's mystery might be
Solved in this grain of sand.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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Comments about this poem (A Grain Of Sand by Robert William Service )

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  • Rookie - 0 Points Greg Davison (10/4/2014 7:56:00 AM)

    Could anyone tell me if this is in the public domain and if there is a resource for checking?
    Thanks. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 187 Points Zoila T. Flores (7/14/2014 8:51:00 PM)

    Oh Service! ! ! You made it,
    A thought in my mind to be born,
    With such a beautiful prose poem (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 8 Points Thomas Vaughan Jones (3/23/2014 2:37:00 PM)

    A grand philosophy. I don't usually promote my own poetry in this area, but this poem is remarkably like something I wrote long before I became aware of A Grain of Sand,
    Posted as

    The Predjudicial Planet.
    Check it out. I don't know whether it stands up to Service though. His poems have had more time to mature. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 378 Points Krishnakumar Chandrasekar Nair (10/28/2013 10:54:00 AM)

    You are truly blessed among men
    To find such mystery in a grain of sand
    And to unravels secrets of the universe
    Today we are planning space ships grand
    When all that is to be known or worth knowing
    Is down here a grain of sand in the palm of our hand (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 261 Points Stephen W (3/23/2013 1:39:00 PM)

    I think some of those who have criticised this poem on here are taking it a bit too literally.
    People should also bear in mind when it was written, a time when the popular consciousness was not really as au fait with the idea of many inhabited worlds as it is now.
    Obviously he used 'careen' to get a rhyme. In any case, I don't see why the Earth can't be considered to be 'rushing headlong'. It's certainly going fast enough. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Carlos Echeverria (3/23/2012 10:47:00 AM)

    while round the earth careens alludes to Earth circling the sun, rotating on its axis-didn't we learn that in grade school science?
    Service is humbled as he ponders the enormity of the universe; and the notion that it may have all started with the tiniest of particles. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 11 Points Udiah Witness to YAH (3/23/2012 8:01:00 AM)

    Even Robert himself does not deny the possibilities of many worlds, many life forms in this vast universe of ours. But even in this, even if every world is given its own god to watch over it, He still believes there be one Devine Deity that is over all. And with that said, maybe sometimes we allow life to get too complex, concentrating on the whole, when maybe simplification might just be the best way to answer our needs and the needs of others as we pass through this short lifetime of the flesh. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Terence George Craddock (3/24/2010 12:22:00 AM)

    'A million worlds may be,
    With each a God to bless or blast
    And steer to destiny.'
    Even when service wrote this, there were already more than a million world according to science, so it must be a metaphor for worlds in general because it does not fit with 'If starry space no limit knows/And sun succeeds to sun', his first reposed concept. I agree with Kevin, it is not his best work. But then we all write crap and posting it gives an insight into the minds of those who slay us for it. Yet these are the only poems my mother likes, very simple and easy to understand. The list of comments on poetry by masters of literature is fascinating and some have multiple comments. Emily must be referring to a novel or novella as a book that makes her cold upon reading. Her poetry has too many Shakespearean, classical and biblical references to include these within her cold book reference and she cannot mean volumes of poetry by her favourite poets.
    With each a God to bless or blast
    And steer to destiny.
    'Just think! A million gods or so
    To guide each vital stream, '
    This concept is in a lot of scientific ideas and writings, the concept of different Gods controlling each world, and is believed in several religions. Interesting in a religion as recent as the Morons, they believe they will become Gods and create their own worlds in there next life. The ancient Greeks also had science fiction writers, flying to planets like Mars and intelligent insect life living in civilizations there. I read several when studying Myths and Legends in the Ancient World and Scribal Culture. Anyone read anything similar in the Sumerian Gilgamesh, Eridu Genesis, or in the Rg Veda, Mahabharta etc? These concepts probably go back to prehistoic stone age cultures. Some religions have a pantheon of gods, three mayor world religions have one God creating the heavens and the earth. Choose? (Report) Reply

    Gold Star - 13,751 Points Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (12/5/2014 8:59:00 AM)

    Great opinions and important ideas that felt.

  • Rookie Michael Pruchnicki (3/23/2010 9:08:00 AM)

    Ah, if only we had the eyes to see and the brains to understand that little grain of sand we hold in the palm of our hand! If only we could comprehend the smallest atom in creation, perhaps we could extend that understanding to worlds that careen through space and time! Like our very own tilt-a-world as it spins merrily along! And my handy Rodale's Synonym Finder includes the following as suitable synonyms for 'careen' as a verb - tilt, lean, cant, heel, incline, list, slope, slant, sway, bend, tend, lurch, pitch, tip, keel, turn over, veer, shift, swerve, deviate, diverge, and sheer!

    Look up such poetic devices as you might find in A Handbook to Literature by Thrall & Hibbard. It seems that every poet mentioned in that reference has something illuminating to say about the art of poetry. Something different and eye-opening about scratching out images on foolscap! Let me ask everyone on this site if he agrees that poetry expresses strong feeling (Wordsworth) , poetry is a criticism of life (Matthew Arnold) , poetry can be called musical Thought (Carlyle) , poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the best and happiest minds (Shelley) , or finally, if I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me (Emily Dickinson) ! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Kevin Straw (3/23/2010 6:36:00 AM)

    'Careen' is wrong - it means: To lurch or swerve while in motion.2. To rush headlong or carelessly. Why there should be a god for every world, I do not know. Service can write better than this. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 294 Points Ramesh T A (3/23/2010 2:14:00 AM)

    Countless sand particles in hand and stars in the Universe are great wonder of God's creation and life on the Earth is a miracle indeed! If many gods are there there will be wars! It is not there and so, no doubt there is only one God for all! (Report) Reply

Read all 30 comments »

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