Humanist Voices in Verse: “We” by Frank S. Robinson

This week we’re pleased to publish a new poem “We” by Frank S. Robinson.

Frank S. Robinson is a retired New York State administrative law judge, a rare coin dealer, and author of five books, most recently The Case for Rational Optimism. He is married to the poet Therese Broderick, and blogs at

If you’d like to contribute original poetry to Humanist Voices in Verse, write to with “Poetry” in the subject line. Please send no more than three poems for consideration per week.


“O God, your sea is so vast, and my boat is so small.”
This was an ancient sailor’s prayer,
A gasp of reverential terror
In the face of Nature’s power.

Naked did we come to this world,
Naked to that unforgiving force,
Put here with nothing but our two bare hands –
And a mass of grey stuff in our skulls.

So we took rocks and sticks and bones,
That’s all we had, and made them into tools.
Then fire, and melting metal out of stones,
For making better things.
Pretty soon we’re growing food;
Building cities; wiring the planet;
Flying to the Moon.

Always driven by the quest for knowledge,
Like squeezing blood from stones;
Mother Nature tries to keep her secrets,
And only wants for us to multiply;
But we want so much more,
We want the truth.

And if naked animals we were,
Now virtually gods are we become,
In the knowledge we have won,
And the mountains we have moved.
Rocks and soil, trees and water
Do not feel, or love, or suffer pain,
But we do, we living men and women do!
And if we seize from Earth the things we need,
That we who breathe and feel
May suffer the less and live the more,
This is no crime, it is a triumph.

After four billion years at last
There are beings on this globe
No longer at its mercy,
But with our fate in our own hands;
By toil and strife, with gritted teeth,
Up from squalid caves we’ve climbed,
By our bootstraps, to the summit;
Not by grace of God, but by ourselves.

Yes, the sea is vast, and our boats are small indeed.
But with that grey stuff in our skulls,
Our eyes to the horizon, and our faces to the wind,
We set out upon our journey.

—Frank S. Robinson