‘Tis The Set o’ the Sails – or – One Ship Sails East


part of a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1916

Another small project completed tonight! Yayyy!  Back sometime in the 1990’s I found this embroidery project and fell in love with it.    I embroidered it way back then but with all the changes in my life at that time, I never got around to getting it framed and it ended up in a box of unfinished projects.  I came across it a few days ago while looking for something and decided to frame it in fabric instead of a regular old picture frame.  A very simple project to complete and I was able to do it this evening.

For your reading pleasure I will copy the whole poem into this post and explain why I like it so much, though I think that is easy to figure out if you have known me for very long.

But to every mind there openeth,
A way, and way, and away,
A high soul climbs the highway,
And the low soul gropes the low,
And in between on the misty flats,
The rest drift to and fro.

But to every man there openeth,
A high way and a low,
And every mind decideth,
The way his soul shall go.

One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
‘Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.

Like the winds of the sea
Are the waves of time,
As we journey along through life,
‘Tis the set of the soul,
That determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

Though she is not a well-remembered poet and was often criticized for being “too romantic” etc, there is a line from another poem of hers that is very well-known actually.  I was surprised as I was writing this tonight and reading a little about her  when I came across this line from her poem Solitude–“”Laugh and the world laughs with you;  Weep, and you weep alone.”  I dare say there are very few who are not familiar with that line!
I’ve always been charmed by some philosophical poetry and writings throughout my life, though I won’t claim to understand much of what I read.  There are those times, however, when something I read just grabs me and it stays with me forever.  The poem says a lot about our self-esteem and how good or bad, it will determine the goals we set for ourselves.  As she says in the last line, not the calm or the strife of our lives.  We will have those times when trials come our way and times when life is just going along very nicely for a while.   But how do we feel about ourselves?

Self-esteem has always been something i have struggled with my whole life, not believing in myself or in my abilities to succeed at many things.  Sometimes I had help with that self-esteem being even lower due to unfair criticism by another person, but I allowed that to happen to a certain extent so I can’t totally lay the blame elsewhere.  This poem is a great reminder for me that I control how I feel about myself.  I can set those goals and make them!  Not alone, but with God’s help and guidance.

As I have grown older  and developed a closer walk with the Lord, I have seen that become more evident in my life and my self-esteem has actually improved to a better state than it ever was.  Having a better self-esteem also leads to a better attitude about things as well–a more positive attitude that I CAN carry out some of my goals.  I am NOT a failure at life.  As it says in my life verse from the Bible, I CAN do all things through Christ who gives me strength  (Phil 4:13) .   Silly though it may seem finishing a small sewing project tonight that involved a philosophical piece of poetry that I love pushed home that point to me once again.  The Lord works in many ways to get our attention and send us encouraging messages, doesn’t He?

21 thoughts on “‘Tis The Set o’ the Sails – or – One Ship Sails East

  1. I love poetry, Elaine, it’s something my mom passed on down to me, I think.

    I love that thought —
    Tis the set of the sails
    And not the gales,
    That tells the way we go.

    The Lord sure DOES work in many ways to get our attention and then lead us. I’ve been challenged over and over, for the past month or so, with God’s command that we love one another – 1 Corin 13 (sound familiar???), 1 John 4, two passages I’m committing to memory. It wasn’t planned, but there in the midst of both is the message that we are to love because God is love. But how? HOW can I love? With some people, sure, it’s easy. But with others? WHAT? I’m supposed to LOVE that person? But HOW? I’ve put that question to God. How, Lord? And he started telling me.

    I listened to Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Revive Our Hearts, yesterday and today, which I haven’t listened to in a long while. And here was God, starting to answer my question. Her topic is not directly “How do we love one another?” but “Overcoming the Power of Words.” And in that I’m finding that to begin with, I have to let go of things people have said to me, or about me. You talked about how that has affected your self esteem — partly because you LET it. Yep! It’s the set of the sails! And this will allow me to begin to love. Teach on, Teacher! Set my sails!

    • Wow Michelle! You just blessed my day with your wonderful comments! Thank you for sharing them and for reading my blog post. I read the transcript yesterday of Nancy Leigh DeMoss’show and apparently God used that in combination with the poem to allow me to write this post. Though I must say that late last night when I was writing it I actually wasn’t thinking of her actively. I love how God works on each of us! Going to find today’s broadcast online and listen to it–thanks for the heads up! Have a great day my friend!

  2. What a beautiful piece of handwork – and so meaningful! I agree, the longer I walk with the Lord, and seek to honor Him, the less I worry about what others think. “For the Lord will be your confidence And will keep your foot from being caught.” Proverbs 3:26

  3. Thank you Jennifer! I like that verse from Proverbs very much! Not sure why it hasn’t caught my eye before. Obviously I skimmed over it whenever I have read it without putting much thought to it. Another good reason for reading God’s word more than one time–There is always a new message in it every time we read it. Praise the Lord!

  4. Thank you so much for posting this! When I was a kid, ~1966 or so, I bought this same embroidery poem as a kit, and made it for my grandpa, a sailor. I framed it and everything, and it was one of the only things they hung on their wall (they were plain peasant people) for the next several decades, until they died.

    Then my dad kept it, down in the basement, his ‘man cave.’ Last year my dad died, and my mother gave my embroidered poem away. To a stranger. Then told me that she did it. (Because this is what people with narcissistic personality disorder do, which she has, and she has some snake-bite mean passive-aggressive sadistic tendencies too.)

    Of course I was heartbroken. Losing my father, and then shortly after this one thing that was a thread, from my beloved immigrant grandparents through my father to me. Which was probably the intention my mother unconsciously held. (Narcissistic personality disorder is a very real thing, and it may even be biological, so this isn’t a dump on mom post.).

    Then tonight I was thinking about that whole event and a deep sadness came back. Wondering if I could find the poem or embroidery of it, I decided to google the poem stanza and embroidery, which led me to your blog. I am so deeply touched by what you wrote, and the poem as a whole.

    So thank you for taking the time to post your story about the poem and needlework project, and also the picture, which brought back memories of my beloved grandma and grandpa and my dear dad — I loved them all so very much — and fond memories of my own 8-year-old’s handiwork. I am so grateful! ❤

  5. PS: …and your blog was the first link I clicked on when I googled it. God — or as I prefer to call that incredible ever-present Presence, Divine Love Consciousness — does indeed move in mysterious ways! You touched my life today. Namaste.

    • What a blessing you are! Thank you for sharing your story with me. I am so pleased you found my blog when you googled the poem. So sorry you no longer have the piece you made. Hugs to you.

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