Count That Day Lost
By George Eliot
If you sit down at set of sun
And count the acts that you have done,
And, counting, find
One self-denying deed, one word
That eased the heart of him who heard,
One glance most kind
That fell like sunshine where it went —
Then you may count that day well spent.
But if, through all the livelong day,
You’ve cheered no heart, by yea or nay —
If, through it all
You’ve nothing done that you can trace
That brought the sunshine to one face–
No act most small
That helped some soul and nothing cost —
Then count that day as worse than lost.
Bridging Text and Context
George Eliot (pen name for Mary Ann Evans) was an English female writer and poet. She lived in England during the Victorian Age in Queen Victoria’s times (1837- 1901), and had religious background. Although that time was characterized by peace and prosperity, there were huge gaps between the rich and the poor. The lower classes lived in poverty. Poor children had to work hard in order to support their families instead of going to school.
Eliot and her friends criticized these conditions. They believed the writer’s job was to help improve society. Their literary works reflected those bad times. Gradually, a sense of responsibility began to develop among the upper classes. They used their money and influence to demand better working conditions and education for the working class.
Mary Anne was a very intelligent woman, and studied Greek literature and languages (very rare for women at the time). She became a writer and chose a male pen name, George Eliot, to make sure her work would be taken seriously.Female writers were not taken seriously at the time, and she wanted to make a difference. She wrote for magazines and also a few long realistic novels. Eliot cared about people and wanted readers to become sympathetic towards other people. Eliot wrote about the differences between rich landowners and poor country people and often criticized the behavior of the upper classes. She believed that people should take responsibility in their everyday lives and make moral choices. Eliot preferred a good heart to cleverness or social status. She felt people could change each other’s lives for the better through good deeds and help.
Analysis and Interpretation
(keywords are in orange)
The poem “Count That Day Lost” describes two possible outcomes of a day:
The first stanza describes a day “well spent” – a day when you did something good for someone else, when you helped others or showed kindness to others. If you reflect on your actions at the end of such a day, your day has not been wasted or lost because of the joy it brought to another person.
On the other hand, the second stanza describes a day that you can consider “worse than lost” – a day when you did nothing to help or comfort anyone.
The division of the poem into 2 stanzas helps the reader understand the message of the poem. There are 2 distinct kinds of days: worthwhile and worthless. These days may appear similar on the surface, but a closer look will reveal the big difference between the two.
The message of the poem: Everyone should do an act of kindness every day. It makes our lives more meaningful. It expresses an important basic principle underlying civilized society. The poem implies that society as a whole can be improved if each of us does his or her part – and that it is every person’s responsibility to do so. The poem is about going beyond the care and concern for oneself to make someone else happy in order to make a day worthwhile.
In other words, the poem describes two possible outcomes of a day. In this, Eliot reflects her biblical upbringing. A self-denying deed is quite open, but her other suggestions are simple to accomplish and fall under the category of ‘do as you would be done by” – ואהבת לרעך כמוך. If, on the other hand, you had the opportunity to be a better person, but you missed it – and you can never go back and have it again, that’s why this is a day “worse than lost”.
Form and Structure:
The poem consists of two stanzas, 8 lines each.
Each stanza has 8 verses (lines).The length of the lines are the same in both stanzas (line 3 and line 11 are both short), which means that there is regular rhythm. In both stanzas, the rhymes are different but their pattern is similar.
The rhyming scheme is:
Stanza 1: a, a, b, c, c, b, d, d.
Stanza 2: e, e, f, g, g, f, h, h.
The form supports the idea of the poem. In this poem, the speaker states that we need to be kind and helpful to other people. We do this by measuring every day what we have done, weigh or count our deeds. When people do soul searching חשבון נפש and think about what they did wrong or right, they often find the balance.
Relevant literary terms:
Image – A mental picture or feeling created the writer through words. The reader imagines something he might see, hear, smell, taste, touch or feel. Metaphor – describes one thing in terms of something else, as if the two are equal.
Simile – An expression that compares two things, showing how they are similar by using: „like‟ or „as‟.
Rhyme – a word or part of a word that shares the same sound.
Rhyme scheme – צורת חריזה או סדר החרוזים בשיר The pattern of rhyming words that repeats itself.
It is easy to figure out the rhyme scheme by giving all the words with the same sound the same letter.
E.g. I once saw a mouse a
That lived in the house, a
But never a cat b
That lived in the hat! b
Verse – a single line in a poem.
Stanza – בית בשיר A group of verses, which form a unit in a poem. This unit may repeats itself in the poem.
Relevant HOTS: Comparing and Contrasting (השוואה והנגדה)
Comparing and Contrasting means:
Finding similarities between two or more things (comparing).
Finding differences between two or more things (contrasting).
Drawing conclusions based on these similarities and differences.
Comparing the two stanzas of the poem
Both stanzas are about a certain type of day
Each stanza has 8 lines
Each stanza has the same rhyming scheme (aabccbdd)
Contrasting the two stanzas of the poem
The subject of the first stanza is about doing at least one good deed every day, and this will make your day worthwhile
The second stanza talks about a day during which you don’t do anything helpful for another person, and this will make your day wasted and even lost.
Cause and Effect: If you do good deeds then your day is well spent. If you don’t do anything good then your day is counted worse than lost.
Explaining Patterns means:
Identifying and explaining different patterns in the text and saying why these patterns are important.
For example, you may be asked you may be asked why certain words or lines are repeated, or where the rhyme scheme of the poem changes and why/ Or you may be asked what behavior a character repeats and why this is important.
Words that need special attention:
The word ‘count’ appears a number of times in the poem. It does not always have the same meaning.
Following are several definitions of the word ‘count’, next to each one indicate which line/s in the poem use/s this meaning. Are there any of these meanings that are not in the poem?
|1||to say or name numbers in sequence|
|2||to say or name things|
|3||to consider something to be in the condition or state mentioned|
|5||to be important|
How does using the word ’count‘ in different ways help us understand the message of the poem?
The word ‘sun’ appears in several lines in the poem. Copy out those lines:
Metaphors and Similes
Learn the following definitions:
|It is a type of comparison in which one thing is described as if it is something else.||It is a comparison in which one thing is described as being similar to another.
We often use the words as…as and like with similes.
|E.g. Life is a journey.
Her home was a prison.
|E.g. His skin was as cold as ice.
My love is like a red, red rose.
Metaphors and similes in the poem. Answer the questions:
1. How does the sun help us define the length of the day?
2. How does sunshine make you feel?
3. What words does the poet use that relate to the real sun in the sky?
4. Where is sunshine used as a simile in the poem?
5. Why did the poet use the sun as the main image of the poem?
Answer the questions:
1. What is the message of the poem?
2. “Count That Day Lost” is considered a motivational poem. Do you think it motivates people? If yes, what does it motivate them to do? If no, why not?
3. An old saying tells us that “it is better to give than to receive.” Do you agree?
4. What are the little everyday things a person can do to bring sunshine into the life of another person?
5. How does it feel to do something kind for another person?
Read these quotes by George Eliot / Marian Evans.
“What do we live for if not to make life less difficult for each other?”
“Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.”
“It is only a poor sort of happiness that could ever come by caring very much about our own pleasures. We can only have the highest happiness such as goes along with being a great man, by having wide thoughts and much feeling for the rest of the world as well as ourselves.”
“The strongest principle of growth lies in the human choice.”
“Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.”
Which of the quotes do you think is most closely related to the poem? Explain your choice in a few sentences.