Our Best Efforts

Our Best Efforts

This week’s poem is “Sometimes”. It reminds us that things sometimes don’t go as badly awry as we may expect. I have omitted the poet’s name according to their express wishes as explained at the end of this post.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.

Poem 277. Sometimes

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail;
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.

This poem is a reminder that our worst fears are occasionally subverted or shown to be completely fictitious.

The author lists a number of things that one might expect not to work out: grapevines and other tender plants in a frost, crops planted in a doubtful season, and well-meaning men who are reaching for a distant goal.

The poem continues in the second stanza with a country ready to threaten its neighbouring states, people who may waver between honest leadership and corrupt self-interest, those who have the choice between helping those in need and standing aside, and the leader himself facing a dilemma of doing the right thing or suiting his own ends.

The start of the third stanza focuses on the personal: we may exert “our best efforts” in the hope of success; we may adopt a course of action with a specific well-meant intention. In the midst of grief that seems “hard frozen”, we may find a moment where sorrow and joy are finely balanced.

In each case, we see a positive outcome: even the smallest of doubtful events may result in success rather than the failure we might be expecting, and even the rich and the powerful may choose the righteous path. The final words make the whole poem seem like a blessing: “may it happen for you” suggests that whatever our own fearful moment might be, we shouldn’t abandon hope even in the direst circumstance.

I recently listened to Sir Terry Pratchett’s book “Guards! Guards!” in which Pratchett introduced a theme that he often used afterwards in the Discworld books:

“When you really need them the most,” he said, “million-to-one chances always crop up. Well-known fact.”

“Guards! Guards!” by Sir Terry Pratchett.

This poem seems to suggest the same thing—perhaps not that a million-to-one chance will always come up, but that it’s not a lost cause either.

I’m also reminded of Van Morrison’s song “Days Like This”:

When it’s not always raining there’ll be days like this
When there’s no one complaining there’ll be days like this
When everything falls into place like the flick of a switch
Well my mama told me there’ll be days like this.

When you don’t need to worry there’ll be days like this
When no one’s in a hurry there’ll be days like this
When you don’t get betrayed by that old Judas kiss
Oh my mama told me there’ll be days like this.

“Days Like This”, by Van Morrison.

The author prefers not to be directly associated with the poem and I have respected this wish but should you wish to discover their other poems, you are able (and encouraged) to do so via the link below.


  • Visit the poet’s website where Sometimes is discussed.
  • Watch Cheryl from Conwy Libraries perform the poem on YouTube.
  • Watch Van Morrison perform “Days Like This” on YouTube.