The Will To Win

Hey there,

Have you ever read a poem and felt energized or motivated to act, as if a tremendous force is coursing through your veins and compelling you to act? I read one such poem recently-“The Will To Win” by Brenton Braley. As a person struggling with consistency, confusion and failures on a daily basis, this poem felt like a bolt from the universe that charged me up, though not just momentarily. I felt as if a force awakened within me and I had an answer; a possible path before me.

The Will To Win

If you want a thing bad enough
To go out and fight for it,
Work day and night for it,
Give up your time and your peace and
your sleep for it

If only desire of it 
Makes you quite mad enough 
Never to tire of it, 
Makes you hold all other things tawdryand cheap for it 

If life seems all empty and useless without it
And all that you scheme and you dream is about it, 

If gladly you’ll sweat for it, 
Fret for it, Plan for it, 
Lose all your terror of God or man for it, 

If gladly you’ll sweat for it,
Fret for it, Plan for it,
Lose all your terror of God or man for it,

If you’ll simply go after that thing that you want.With all your capacity, 
Strength and sagacity, 
Faith, hope and confidence, stern pertinacity, 

If neither cold poverty, famished and gaunt, 
Nor sickness nor pain 
Of body or brain 
Can turn you away from the thing that you want, 

If dogged and grim you besiege and beset it, 
You’ll get it!
-Brenton Braley

Without a doubt, we humans are creatures of desires and wants. Brenton Braley may have begun his poem with the conjunction “If” but there is no “If” in our lives. We always have something in our life that we want “bad enough”. The enjambment at the end of the first line forces us to pause and acknowledge that one thing that we want “bad enough”.  We want to read on because we desperately want that thing but do not know how. Though, are we ready “To go out and fight for it” (2)?

There is a timid voice within me that is unsure but the forceful association of the conjunction “If” forces me to acknowledge once again that if I desperately want what I desire, I must, I have “[t]o go out and fight for it” (2). I am almost forced to nod in acknowledgement and prepare myself.

I am then asked if I am ready to “Work day and night for it” (3)? Once again the break in the line forces me to stop and agree to yet another clause. I feel a sudden relief as I realise I had been resisting against working day and night for long. I surrender to the commands of the narrative voice of the poem that calls on me to “Work day and night” (3) for my dreams. 

However, is it necessary to “Give up your time and your peace and | your sleep for it” (4-5)? I read on frantically to know if there is a possible answer, a possible alternative. But I am met with another question, “If only desire of it” (6). The enjambment at the end of line 6 is shocking and torturous. Yes, I do desire it but what of it? Now the question continues does your desire “Make[] you quite mad enough” (7)?  Does it make you “hold all other things tawdry” (8)?

In a way we are made to realise that it is okay to feel “mad” about the things we desire. We are made to feel it is okay to feel everything else is “tawdry”. At the same, I also wonder, if this line is guiding me towards the idea that everything else should be inconsequential if I truly wish to achieve what I want. 

However, the moment seeds of doubt start sprouting within me, the narrator pulls me back with yet another question; does “life seem[] all empty and useless without it” (11)?
This time, to banish all doubts forever, I answer forcefully; YES. Once again I, the reader, start making pacts with the narrator to “sweat” (13), “Plan” (14) and “go after the thing” (16) I desire.

I am made aware that I must work with all my “capacity” (17). Abstract nouns, “Strength…sagacity” (18) ask me to prepare to fight for the things I want in my life not just with physical strength but with an acute awareness that seeks to understand and judge logically.

Carefully and sensitively, the poem prepares me for failures when it talks about “stern pertinacity” (19). The line appeals to those among us who are already failing and even to those of us hoping to begin a new journey. We are warned that we must hold on with “hope and confidence” (19) in face of every situation that is an obstacle, be it “terror of God or man” (15), be it “pain” (21), be it “cold poverty” (20), a frustration with any situation of our lives.

Lastly, I am assured, if I “besiege” (24) what I want, that is if I do not leave any avenue unexplored, “You’ll get it!” (25).  

Brenton Braley has symbolised, what we desire, the kind of life we want metaphorically by war. All the adjectives apt for a situation of war are made to be a must, for the most coveted desire of our life. Nevertheless, there are narratives today that question this war like approach to a fulfilling life. We are constantly advised to walk a path of peace, contentment and joy while happily living our dream. No doubt, it is an ideal but like war–even if it is defensive–is necessary to maintain peace, I believe, at times in our life, it is wise to look at our desires as objectives and conquer them with the same attributes and skills as a soldier. 

Until next time,
In obeisance to the divine in you,
Trishna

Works Cited
Braley, Berton. “The Will To Win”, 24 December 2016. PoemHunter.com, http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-will-to-win-3/#content. Accessed on 25th Jul 2021.

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