Poem: The Clock of Life


(Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)
(Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

The Clock of Life by Robert H. Smith

The clock of life is wound but once,
And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop
At late or early hour.

To lose one’s wealth is sad indeed,
To lose one’s health is more,
To lose one’s soul is such a loss
That no man can restore.

The present only is our own,
So Live, Love, toil with a will
Place no faith in “Tomorrow”
For the clock may then be still.

Robert H. Smith

23 thoughts on “Poem: The Clock of Life”

    1. The poem was attributed to a Robert Smith in the 1930’s. Fact of the matter is that it was written by Wilfred Grindle Conary prior to that, as he passe away in 1928.

  1. Thank you for answering me about the clock of life, its a shame i cant solve the H my dad recently died and his name was herbert smith and he loved this poem, just wanted to find out if it stood for herbert. joy

  2. There seems to be a Robert Hilton Smith,(1928 – 2009), an American in property. Could Smith, the poet be a Hilton as well? If not, Joy’s question remains unanswered.

  3. Had to read this poem out for my grandad’s funeral , it was his and his deceased brothers favorite ..
    It is a very good poem, so i hope it will stay in our family

    1. Hi Vicky,
      There is a long list of people who have claimed credit for this. However, my grandfather, Wilfred Grindle Conary, passed away in 1928, and I have the original in his handwriting sitting here near my desk at my office.

  4. MR. Smith, my name is Marea Hobson and I’ve written a book about the life of my son Lance.
    Lance passed away on 30th April 1996 due to blunt head trauma during a boxing match.
    Lance used the words of your poem..the clock of life..in his daily life and I would like to place the poem in my book.
    Would you be able to give me written permission to publish the poem, with your name as the author?
    Lance was only 23 when he died.
    Your poem was kept on the wall of our gym, and it mirror’s Lance’s life.
    Thank You
    Marea Hobson

  5. This poem was not written by Robert H Smith…this was written by a lady of the last name Weaver…first name I believe was Jane…formerly of Hamilton Ontario,Canada.

    1. I have the original, written by my grandfather Wilfred G. Conary here in my office, in his handwriting. Any claims after that are false, as he passed away in 1928,
      Thanks,
      David A. Conary

  6. There is more to this poem… I have an heirloom 1893 Seth Thomas Mantel Clock in which I found a printed card with “The Great Clock” poem along with an old photograph of Bessie McCoy, who gifted the clock to my ancestor, Jack Peters. The full text of the poem reads as follows:

    The Great Clock

    The clock of life is wound but once,
    And no man has the power
    To tell just when the hand will stop.
    At late or early hour.

    Now is the only time you own;
    Love, love, toil with a will,
    Plan no faith in tomorrow for
    The clock may then be still.

    Wear today a cheerful face
    In everything you do.
    The sunshine that you radiate
    Will shine tight back at you.

    Speak today a word of hope
    To someone in distress;
    When you lift another’s load
    You make your burdens less.

    Do today a gracious deed
    And do it with a smile;
    It’s little daily acts like these
    That make your life worth while.

    I would dearly like to know the author of this poem – and I was unable to find the entire text or anything confirming that Smith or Weaver is the author. Any clues would be greatly appreciated. God bless!

    1. Good morning,..I will inquire some more,but have dates on this poem that goes back a lot farther than 1893.
      I also have this poem embroidered on material from way back when.
      Two people that were getting this poem registered,were Irene Salvisburg of Hamilton Ontario,Canada,and John R.Smith former member of parliament,now a minister in Hamilton Ontario,Canada.They were able to prove that Eva Weaver,did in fact write this poem.Something was registered at city hall,Hamilton Ont.I’m not sure what it was,but will try and find out.
      Mr Smith is still alive,and is still ministering,in Hamilton(Anglican),the R in his name is Ricki,in case you would like to further this yourself.
      In the mean time I will still try to pursue this,and let you know,if I have any new findings.
      I remain, respectfully, John Brason

  7. This is a very powerfull poem. There are many versions and I have one
    that I always say each day. It reminds me how thanfull I am to wake up each morning and start a new day. Our life is not like a baseball game where you get three strikes and your out, we only have one so lets hit a homer each day we play the game. “God Bless All Of You” that have taken the time to read my reply.
    Respectfully,
    Johnny Battiato

  8. My Grandmother gave me a copy of The Clock of Life, which she claims my Grandfather, Wilfred G. Conary, wrote originally. The copy, in his handwriting, is framed and hanging on my wall. I just know it was not written later than 1928, because that is the year my Grandfather died.

  9. If anyone doubts that my grandfather wrote this prior to his death in 1928, Google Wilfred Grindle Conary.

  10. David, that poem signed by your father does not indicate that he wrote it. I am not saying that it is not possible, or that you are being deceptive, but that is not an historical website that can be used to authenticate anything. I’m sure you must realize that.

  11. Hi Dana. First it was signed by my grandfather, not my father. Secondly, I would sooner believe in a signed hard copy (in my possession) than an historical website. In addition to that, his passing in 1928 makes it difficult to believe that it was written after his death.

  12. I was given an old pendulum wall clock by my step-grandfather. Inside I found a small card printed by the manufacturer on which it had a shortened version of this poem. It reads:

    The clock of life is wound but once
    And no man has the power
    To tell just when the hands will stop
    At late or early hour.

    Now is the only time you own,
    Live, love, toil with a will.
    Place no faith in “tomorrow” for
    The clock may then be still.

    I want to live by these words, but it has been difficult. So I look at the card once-in-a-while to try to be inspired to make a change.

  13. Thanks you so much, Maurice, for your acceptance and honoring my grandfather’s life in this manner. As I sit here at my computer, his poem hangs framed on the wall beside me.

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