The words "Als ich kan" are painted over a portrait by Jan van Eyck in the National Gallery.
A saying wrought from mingled warp and weft
Of joy and woe
In human hearts, and for our learning left
So long ago:
Not "as I would," the master's motto ran,
But "as I can."
The waking Self, that with the Highest fain
Would prove its kin,
From many an hour of strife, defeat, and pain,
Its peace must win;
Not "as I would," our cry since Life began,
But "as I can."
Full well we know how sharp the conflicts seem,
What tears they cost;
How steep the lonely heights from which we deem
The world well lost—
Each upward step achieved, each foe withstood
But as we could.
Falls all too short each poor self-sacrifice;
Desire wavers, shrinking from the price
That must be paid;
E'en Love must plead: "'Tis only as I could,"
"Not as I would."
God knoweth! Hope may fail and faith may falter
When sorely tried,
But all we lost, all we may never alter,
All joys denied,
All that we cannot be, all that we could,
Is as He would.
—J. H. Shorthouse
More Articles by This Author James Allen
James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.