The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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DETROIT, Wednesday—Today I want to tell you a story and reprint a poem.

The girl to whom the poem was written became engaged on November 13, 1942, to young Lieutenant S. J. Wright. He had majored in English at Dartmouth where his father is a professor of philosophy, and he wanted to make writing his career. Instead, the day after graduation in May, 1942, he went into the Marine Corps, and, after training in Quantico, was on his way to the South Pacific. Early this past fall the poem arrived enclosed in a letter to his girl. This poem represents the one fulfillment of his life's ambition. He was killed November 13, 1943, in action while attempting to knock out an enemy position so his men could advance.

To explain the last line of the poem, he wrote in his letter:

“This is for you, as you can plainly see, and so I want you to like it and understand it. That won't be difficult (the understanding)—until perhaps the last word which you may neither like nor understand. Selfishness in itself is not necessarily bad—it is too human for that. You would quickly say that our greatest want (or selfishness) is to be together again. Yet if you think, you'll realize even that selfishness is subordinate to the reason for fighting this war. But we feel, and here we constantly do, that some great good must come from this. Which is why I am here and you're there. Maybe you like it better this way; although our selfishness (yours and mine) is undeniably uppermost in our hearts, we make an effort to keep it secondary in our minds. Do you see that compared to the fight it is selfishness?”

The poem, which I reprint by permission of The Ladies' Home Journal:

“A Marine to His Girl”

“> "From the damp of my foxhole, each night,
Up through the restless, worrying jungle
Into the heaven's shimmering light,
I lean my weight to the emptiness,
And reach strong over the ocean's arc,
Groping with care to where you are,
Into your windows where the dark
Cold wind swirls and cries your loneliness.
Tenderly, tenderly I hold your love,
Achingly kiss your sweet soft lips,
But briefly, I am torn apart and above
And back to this island's positiveness.
These nights, as through that window
You pray for the moment when something
More than my spirit returns, deeply know:
Tomorrow must be greater than our selfishness.

A challenge to us that last line!

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Detroit (Mich., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, January 27, 1944

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Available under licence from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

Published with permission from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

TEI-P5 edition published on April 28, 2017.

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.