It Couldn't Be Done

by Edgar Albert Guest

About the Author

Edgar Albert Guest, born in England in 1881, moved to America with his family in 1891. He dropped out of high school to support his family, becoming a copy boy for the Detroit Free Press. He eventually worked up to a job in the news department. In December of 1898, his first poem appeared, and his verses eventually became the daily "Breakfast Table Chat". In the course of forty years he composed around 11,000 poems, becoming very widely read. His poems reflect everyday life, and he has been called "the poet of the people."

It Couldn't Be Done


Somebody said that it couldn’t be done

But he with a chuckle replied

That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one

Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin

On his face. If he worried he hid it.

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

That couldn’t be done, and he did it!

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;

At least no one ever has done it;”

But he took off his coat and he took off his hat

And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.

With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,

Without any doubting or quiddit,

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,

There are thousands to prophesy failure,

There are thousands to point out to you one by one,

The dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,

Just take off your coat and go to it;

Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing

That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

Interpretation of Key Lines

Like most of Guest's poems, "It Couldn't be Done" is relatively clear and easy to understand. However, it may be useful to clarify some lines.

"He started to sing as he tackled the thing..."

The singing represents that he had a positive attitude as he went about doing the thing that "couldn't be done."

"Without any doubting or quiddit'"

This line mean that he believed in himself and didn't try to work around the situation.

"He buckled right in..."

"Buckled" here means he applied himself with vigor.

"He took off his coat and he took off his hat"

This adds to the effect that the character is a real, ordinary person. It also means that the person didn't waste any time after being told it couldn't be done and got right to doing the thing.

"There are thousands to prophesy failure"

There are many people who will predict that you will not succeed.


The overall theme is very clear: when others say that something can't be done, the reader shouldn't be discouraged from trying and should in fact feel an urge to do the thing. There are also some more less noticeable themes. One of these underlying themes is that people should feel positive about being challenged, and that doing so will lead to success. Another is that nonconformity can be beneficial; by not believing what everyone else said about something not being able to be done, the character ended up doing that "impossible" thing.
"It Couldn't Be Done" - New Audi Commercial
Big image