Three New Versions Of A Hundred-Year-Old Quaker Poem

As this article deals with small, poetic alterations to an English original, we have decided not to translate it. However, if you would like some help with understanding the text, please contact the editorial team. We’re all very friendly and one of us is a (now qualified!) English-As-A-Foreign-Language Teacher who loves explaining things to people.

But first, let us tell you what this is all about.

In 1996, a young Friend named Kyle sent poem to Sporadical, the Canadian young Friend magazine. He had found it in the December 1905 issue of The Canadian Friend while working on a book about the history of Young Friends in Canada. He wrote “the language is certainly not contemporary, but it might be of interest to your readers as it has a certain quaint charm to it. [Perhaps you could] suggest to your readers that they send in their own versions of it and then publish them”.

The copy of Sporadical, the magazine of Canadian Young Friends, that we found in our archives.

We do not know whether Canadian YFs actually wrote their updated versions, as we only have the one copy of Sporadical that was sent to the EMEYF secretary at the time and thus ended up in our archives. However, during a Living Archives Project workshop at our Annual Meeting 2019, a few Friends felt called to take Kyle up on his challenge and write their own versions, which you will find below.

The Original – A Young Quaker

I’m a young Quaker, but you should call me a ‘Friend,’
A follower of Fox, a believer in Penn;
I belong to the church of John Bright and E. Fry,
And hope a good Quaker to be until I die.
I like to be a Quaker, for a Quaker is plain,
And he scorns any cheating that might bring him gain,
And his prayers, although silent, shall ever ascend
For God’s blessing to fall on the children of men.
Would you like to know what I’m a young Quaker for?
Well, they never kept slaves nor killed men in war;
They are led by the Spirit all the way through,
So don’t you think you’d better be a good Quaker too?

Kyle’s letter in Sporadical

Version 1 – Lisette

Lisette has kept the overall structure and rhythm of the original poem, but updated the parts she disagrees with, adding some very clever rhymes.

I’m a young Quaker, you can call me a Friend,
a follower of Fox, and also of Penn.
I’m in the same church as John Bright and E. Fry
and strive a good person to be till I die.

I like to be a Quaker, for they care about the Earth,
we stand up for social justice and people’s inner worth.
We hope our prayers, although silent, will ever ascend,
for the children of Earth, may blessings descend.

Would you like to know what I’m a Young Quaker for?
They object to exploitation and they don’t go to war.
We are led by the spirit all the way through,
so wouldn’t you like to become a Quaker too?

Version 2 – Leyna

Leyna has stripped the poem down to its essence and applied this to her own Quaker beliefs, highlighting our Quaker community, silence and peaceful inner light.

I’m a young Quaker, you may call me a ‘Friend,’
I follow ideas and words by Margaret and Penn.

My church is a community free of walls,
We follow divine guidance when service calls.

Our prayers although silent, connect us at heart,
and no matter how far, we’re never apart.

We believe in the spirit and the inner light.
To create a peaceable kingdom we need not weapons nor might.

Join us for worship, action or tea;
The Society of Friends extends a welcome to thee!

Version 3 – Marcie

Marcie has written her own poem about being a young Quaker.

What does being a young Quaker mean today?

Young Quaker, Friend, Community,
Living in the Light.
I’m seeking space and openness
And growth
To do what love requires of me.

And amongst the wooden arches
Of the window frames
Watching branches in the wind
From the white cushioned circle
Where we sit to hear the silence
I know I’ve found a spiritual home.

The strength I’ve found in the
Stitches of our quilts and friendship bracelets
And in the wide expanse of sea
In the crossings that continue over borders
And the hope we send wherever we go
I know that with the changing tide
Will come the love
Of other young Quakers
Living in the Light.

After reading this, are you feeling excited to write your own version? We at Willy & Penn would love to read and/or publish your work! Simply drop us an email via the contact form. (And remember, you don’t have to be a Young Friend to write for Willy & Penn!)

6 thoughts on “Three New Versions Of A Hundred-Year-Old Quaker Poem

    1. I couldn’t find them on twitter, but Canadian YF have a facebook group (Kyle is on facebook as well). Really seems like the post that should spread wide, to build connections!

      Liked by 1 person

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