The guy in the glass poem
The Guy In The Glass poem has been subject of much confusion and some distortion, and is rarely properly attributed.
Duncan Fletcher, the England Cricket coach is not alone in failing to attribute it when recited the poem in a BBC Radio interview (Radio 5 Live, 23 October 2005). Fletcher explained that all the England players had been issued a copy of the poem, and he believed it to have been helpful in contributing to the team’s development, culminating in their Ashes victory that year.
Ex-captain Michael Atherton (some years before the Ashes winning team) has also in a separate interview referred to the poem as being of particular personal significance to him, and something he keeps with him at all times. It’s a remarkable and powerful piece of writing.
The Guy In The Glass poem was in fact written in 1934 by American writer Peter ‘Dale’ Wimbrow (1895-1954), and was first published in The American Magazine in May that year. Wimbrow submitted the poem in response to the magazine’s request for its readers to send answers to an 18 year-old man’s question as to , “…why an ambitious young man should be honest…”.
Thereafter the published poem seemingly went ‘wild’, so to speak, as great literary works sometimes do. Subsequent distorted versions commonly change the title to ‘The Man In the Glass’, or ‘The Man In The Mirror’, and many versions alter the word ‘pelf’ in the first line to ‘self’ believing the word ‘pelf’ to be a misprint.
Pelf in fact means money or wealth, usually ill-gotten, derived from Old French pelfe and pelfre, meaning reward gained from plunder or contest or achievements, probably related to the same roots as the word pilfer.
If you refer to the Guy In The Glass poem please use the correct words, and attribute it properly, to Dale Wimbrow, 1934.
This is the correct version. It’s about honesty of course, and more than this, the poem provides a philosophy for living a life of integrity and value.
The Guy In The Glass
When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf, And the world makes you King for a day, Then go to the mirror and look at yourself, And see what that guy has to say.
For it isn’t your Father or Mother or Wife, Who judgement upon you must pass. The feller whose verdict counts most in your life Is the guy staring back from the glass.
He’s the feller to please, never mind all the rest, For he’s with you clear up to the end, And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test If the guy in the glass is your friend.
You may be like Jack Horner and “chisel” a plum, And think you’re a wonderful guy, But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum If you can’t look him straight in the eye.
You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years, And get pats on the back as you pass, But your final reward will be heartaches and tears If you’ve cheated the guy in
“Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” (Thomas Alva Edison, 1847-1931, US inventor of the light bulb, gramophone, electric valve, a megaphone, a storage battery, a system of electricity generation and distribution, and first person to produce talking motion pictures. Edison said this in 1903 apparently.)
“Genius is only a greater aptitude for patience.” (George-Louis Leclerc, aka Compte de Buffon, 1707-88, French naturalist, written in 1803, a little ahead – 100 years actually – of Edison’s version.)
“If ‘A’ is a success in life, then A = x + y + z. Work is x; y is play, and z is keeping your mouth shut.” (Albert Einstein, 1879-1955, Bavarian-Jewish-born Swiss-American Physicist and seminal thinker about the universe, in one of his lighter moments.)
“I don’t drop players. I make changes.” (Bill Shankly, 1913-81, Scottish manager of Liverpool Football Club, demonstrating the art of accentuating the positive. Shankly is also credited with one of the most famous of all football quotes, below.)
“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.” (Bill Shankly, 1913-81, Scottish manager of Liverpool Football Club, on the importance of passion in your chosen field.)
“Age is deformed, youth unkind, We scorn their bodies, they our mind.” (An Elizabethan comment about different people’s perceptions that holds true today, written by Thomas Bastard – seriously, that’s his real name – 1566-1618, English poet, epigram-writer and clergyman)
“Give me a smart idiot before a stupid genius any day.” (Samuel Goldwyn, 1882-1974, Polish-Jewish-born US film producer.)
“A truth that’s told with bad intent Beats all the lies you can invent.” (William Blake, 1757-1827, English poet, painter and mystic.)
“When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only of how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.” (Richard Buckminster Fuller, 1895-1983, US engineer and architect.)
“Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.” (attributed to Bill Clinton, b.1946, US 42nd President, referring to the dangers of falling out with press and media folk; the quote was originally written by Mark Twain, 1835-1910, American author and commentator, aka Samuel L Clemens – thanks J Pollak-Kahn for the Mark Twain origin.)
Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), the great Indian statesman and spiritual leader, was once asked what he thought of Western Civilisation. Gandhi replied: “I think that it would be a very good idea.” (see also the Gandhi shoe story)
“If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.” (Carl Jung, 1875-1961, Swiss psychiatrist and humanist, written in 1932 – the principle applies to seeking to change anyone, or anything, not just children…)
“We call ours a utilitarian age, and we do not know the uses of any single thing. We have forgotten that water can cleanse, that fire can purify, and that the Earth is mother to us all.” (Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900, playwright, author and poet. Prophetic words.)