Analysis of the Poem "Only a Dad" by Edgar Guest

Updated on January 6, 2018
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I have a degree in psychology, and I am a mom to two young sons. I love all things art, and I enjoy writing about my life experiences.

Photo of me and my dad, 1986 (my first birthday)
Photo of me and my dad, 1986 (my first birthday)

Only a Dad

Only a dad with a tired face,

Coming home from the daily race,

Bringing little of gold or fame

To show how well he has played the game;

But glad in his heart that his own rejoice

To see him come and to hear his voice.


Only a dad with a brood of four,

One in ten million or more

Plodding along in the daily strife,

Bearing the whips and the scorns of life,

With never a whimper of pain or hate,

For the sake of those who at home await.


Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,

Merely one of the surging crowd,

Toiling, striving from day to day,

Facing whatever may come his way,

Silent whenever the harsh condemn,

And bearing it all for the love of them.


Only a dad but he gives his all,

To smooth the way for his children small,

Doing with courage stern and grim

The deeds that his father did for him.

This is the line that for him I pen:

Only a dad, but the best of men.

Themes in the Poem

In this wonderful poem, we see several themes. The dad is tired, he works hard, and he sees very little "gold" or "fame", i.e. little worldly treasure reaped from his efforts. However, throughout each stanza, we see the theme of him continually doing all this for his "brood of four": going to work and doing what must be done, day after day, "for the love of them". In this, we see a great self-sacrifice, which any good parent must exhibit for their children in one form or another.

Another theme we see is the father's self-control, with "never a whimper of pain or hate", and staying "silent whenever the harsh condemn"; also "bearing it all". He could complain or whine and moan about how tired he is, how annoyed he is that he's not making as much material wealth as he hoped, and so on. However, he does none of this; he restrains himself and uses great self-control by "facing whatever may come his way" without complaint or comment. Instead, he does so with "courage", "stern and grim", implying a kind of grit and determination to do what it takes for his children and family as a whole.

Finally, a third theme to be found (though there are many), is that he is continuing a legacy started by his own father, by walking in "the deeds his father did for him". This suggests that he had a good father as well, who did what needed to be done, made the necessary sacrifices, and provided for his family.

The poem closes with a line that reveals how highly the author thinks of this man. Although the title is "Only a Dad", we can clearly see from this concluding line that this person is much more than "just" a father. "Only a dad, but the best of men." What a wonderful, beautiful line! This man is not just a dad. He is everything to his kids, his wife, his family. He is their whole world, and although he may be "one in ten million or more," he is the very best man in the world to his family. He is the best of men! And that truly is saying something magnificent. His importance and value cannot be overstated.

Personal Meaning

This poem has meaning to me, personally. I've always seen my dad work hard, all throughout my life, and he is just like the dad in this poem. He doesn't complain, he doesn't murmur, and he sacrifices anything and everything for his family. He's a good man, with a good heart, and he has integrity.

Although we were not rich growing up, we always had everything we needed, and then some. I saw my dad commute for many years to work, and even when we moved closer, there were many times that he would complete his work day, come home and have dinner, and then go back to work later that evening to finish up a project.

In all that time, the most I saw him ask for was to put down his stuff or go to the bathroom really quick before coming out and helping with whatever my mom or us kids needed. If my mom ever needed help with dinner, or for him to go get dinner, he was always ready and willing (or, if she needed him to cook, he would cook). If I ever needed help with my math or science homework (which happened pretty often in high school, and even junior college), he was there.

I even remember many nights, if I stayed up late working on an art project for my AP Art class, trying to make it perfect, he would walk out into the kitchen and tell me not to stay up "too much later" and even give me a pep talk about how it didn't have to be perfect. If I ever needed to talk, even if it was late, my dad would make a cup of coffee and talk to me.

That was/is just the kind of dad he is. That's why that final line in the poem always gets me every time and literally brings me to tears! My dad is just like the dad in the poem. He is the best of men, too, and I'm so blessed to call him mine!

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    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 5 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      I'd love to know who the author is. This poem describes my son in every way. He died of cancer leaving 4 little children to find their way alone in this world. The mother deserted them leaving my son to raise these precious ones and they were his life.

      I'd like to dedicate this poem to my son next father's day. He died 1 week to the day after Father's Day.

      Thank you for this touching, beautiful hub. Many blessings and love to you and yours.

      Audrey

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