Life is mostly froth and bubble

“Life is mostly froth and bubble,

Two things stand like stone,

Kindness in another’s trouble,

Courage in your own.”

Adam Lindsay Gordon, Australian poet.

I heard this quote last Sunday on the Australia wide radio programme, “Australia All Over.” Someone ringing in to the programme read out the whole poem which was quite beautiful. I have quoted only the last four lines.

These words are not only beautiful, they are heavily ironic when you realise the tragedy of the poet’s life. Adam Lindsay Gordon’s life was mostly “froth and bubble” as he dissipated a large inheritance from his mother on frivolous living. His first love was horses, both in breaking them and in riding them, interests that are strongly represented in his poetry.

As a horseman he received much recognition throughout the fledgling Australian colonies. Coupled with this was a growing reputation as a poet with several volumes to his credit at the time of his death. His interests were broader than this, and he even served a term in parliament.

He evidently had many trusted and supportive friends but even their kindness could not prevent the tragedies of his life. Financial mismanagement, personal loss such as the death of his only child and a reckless approach to many physical activities took their toll. His volume of poetry Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes was published on 23rd June 1870. The next morning he took his own life, age 37.

Sadly, the courage he wrote of in the poem I quoted above had deserted him.


20 Responses to “Life is mostly froth and bubble”

  1. James T says:

    Very random: I was looking for the author of this quote and you were up the top of the search results! Crazy. Hope you and you’re lovely wife are enjoying life 🙂

  2. Trevor says:

    Hi there James – good to hear from you (though I do follow you on Facebook).

    Interesting that this blog post comes up first – I’ve found that with quite a few of the articles I’ve written in recent times. I guess it means I’m one of the few writing about certain topics.

    It could also mean that my ranking on Google is high due to many factors – the large traffic of visitors is a part of that. Currently I am nearly averaging 1000 readers per day over my three blogs. Makes it all worthwhile, especially with the many great comments readers make and questions they ask.

    All the best.

  3. joan gardner says:

    What poem do these 4 LINES COME FROM Life is mostly froth and bubble,

    Two things stand like stone,

    Kindness in another’s trouble,

    Courage in your own.”

    Adam Lindsay Gordon, Australian poet.

  4. Neil Klein says:

    I am wanting to write a speech as an exercise for Toastmasters. I heard the line -‘life is mostly froth and bubble’ and radio national the other day and it sounded promising! Now I have the next two lines it might come together

  5. Trevor says:

    Hi there Neil,

    These lines come from his poem “Ye Wearie Wayfarer”.

    More of the poem can be found here:

    All the best for your speech.

  6. allan childs says:

    Good evening Neil. I am the manger of Adam Lindsay Gordon’s cottage at Port Macdonnell Gordon and his wife named it Dingley Dell from Pick Wick Papers. Our museum covers many items belonging to Gordon &his wife
    The cottage is the first home on the South Australian heritage list and has been fully restored to its former glory with walking trails in this small conservation park.
    I personally think your web site is fantastic keep up the great work

  7. Trevor says:

    Hi there Allan,

    Thanks for visiting my site and for leaving your kind comments. I recall visiting Dingley Dell many years ago but my memories of it are vague. This probably means that we are long overdue another visit – or my memory is slipping in my maturing years.

    It was also good to see your establishment getting good coverage on Channel 9s “Postcards” programme last night.

  8. Adele Mitchell says:

    My mother wrote these four lines in my autograph book 53 years ago. I have always remembered them, but only now have I learned about their true author. Very interesting!

  9. Trevor says:

    I am pleased to have helped you Adele.

  10. Zdzisław says:

    Over 20 years ago I found these four lines on a girl’s desk while visiting the Albert House, kind of a small museum, in Mount Albert in Auckland. At that time I did not know who was their author, but I recognized immediately their important message. They do help in one’s life a lot.

  11. Jerry S says:

    Those four lines were posted at eye level inside the cabinet door next to the kitchen sink of the house we moved into 39 years ago. They changed my life intent, from being egocentric to becoming aware of the opportunities of serving other people’s needs and taking proper care of my own needs, productively. Thanks for filling in the history of the lines with a story of caution for all.

  12. valerie morgan says:

    Princess Diana used them in a fund raising speech for charity. Never forgot them. She if course also had many difficult times.

  13. Di Allen says:

    Her memory will live on too. My primary school teacher left that great quote in an autograph book, -not fully understood at the time. Re Trevor’s quote that Gordon’s courage failed him in the end, perhaps he was like many younger sons and those (“black sheep”?)out of favour in England who never shook off the feeling of failure in meeting educational and status expectations.

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  15. Ruth Embery says:

    I have been doing some research on my family history and was trying to remember this quote, and found your blog. My great grandmother arrived in Adelaide from Ireland in 1890. She was a prolific wood carver and carved a number of quotes, some of which were in the original YWCA building in Adelaide (long since gone…) I am trying to trace what happened to these. We have her carving of this quote in our branch of the family, which apparently was designed to sit on top of a large bookcase she also carved. I am so interested that she used such a ‘modern’ quote. Thanks for the rest of the info – very interesting.

  16. Maureen says:

    My nana who I loved dearly wrote these four lines in my autograph book that I received Christmas 1968 aged 11 . I really probably never paid any heed to what they meant then . But as I grew up and had a family of my own , I often bring these words to mind and try to live by them . Wise words indeed ! So pleased to know now where they actually came from .

  17. Garry Collins says:

    In Brisbane earlier this week I saw the Queensland Theatre Company’s production of a play entitled “Boston Marriage” by contemporary American playwright David Mamet. One of the three characters is a maid and on several occasions her dialogue has her quoting things that her granny used to say. One of these “quotes” was the four well-known lines from Adam Lindsay Gordon. I was left wondering whether David Mamet knew their origin.

  18. Beverley Flynn says:

    My beautiful learned father was well read, these poems are a reminder to me of his compassion and intellect. Adam Lindsay Gordon’s 4 line poem, I grew up with, my dad would offen quote these lines to me. As I grew up. I asked him to write them down for me before he died. He changed a few word in it, but the meaning was always the same. Dad passed on the 29th July, 2003. I now pass this message onto people I come across in life, because I live by these words every day of my life.
    My father John Flynn came from proud Irish heritage and God bless him, I do too.
    Beverley your daughter.
    Dad’s written words.
    Life is mostly froth and bubble
    Two things stand as stone
    Kindness in another’s troubles
    Courage in your own

  19. Max says:

    Hi, trying to write about this poem for school. Would you be able to tell me or unpack what “two things stand like stone” could mean? Thankyou.

  20. Max says:

    Whoops just realised. Kindness and courage. Sorry.