Be the Best of Whatever You Are - (2009)
for medium or low voice and piano
If you can't be a pine on the top of the hill,
Be a scrub in the valley — but be
The best little scrub by the side of the rill;
Be a bush if you can't be a tree.
If you can't be a bush be a bit of the grass,
And some highway happier make;
If you can't be a muskie then just be a bass —
But the liveliest bass in the lake!
We can't all be captains, we've got to be crew,
There's something for all of us here,
There's big work to do, and there's lesser to do,
And the task you must do is the near.
If you can't be a highway then just be a trail,
If you can't be the sun be a star;
It isn't by size that you win or you fail —
Be the best of whatever you are!
[ 3 pages, circa 2' 00" ]
Douglas Malloch (1877-1938) was an American poet, short story writer, and associate editor of American Lumberman, an adventure magazine connected with Edgar Rice Burroughs. Some have commented that his philosophy was one of "contentment." Some of his often cited comments echo with wisdom today and reflect that life philosophy of contentment, being satisfied with one's lot in life: "The biggest liar in the world is They say," which comments hugely on the "unnamed source" and "experts" mentioned in the daily news today, and "Courage is to feel the daily daggers of relentless steel and keep on living," which reflects the simple advice, "persevere." His wife, Helen Miller Malloch, was a newswoman who gained fame in her own right as founder of the National Association of Presswomen.
The pedal tonic as found in the upper voice in the accompaniment stands out against the moving harmony of the vocal and bass lines, a metaphor for constancy in the things of life as per the above thumbnail sketch. It is a simple song form, AABA, with a quixotic secco accompaniment also representing life's brittleness, with a melody line meant to be reminiscent of that folksy Americana which Malloch represents so well.
The score is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.
Be the Best of Whatever You Are