My father quit school in the 10th grade to support his mother, but he spent the rest of his life reading widely, and attempting self-education. At some point, he fell in love with poetry, and wrote some himself. He had studied older poets, and wrote in a somewhat archaic style, which was quite out of fashion. Still, one of his poems has achieved immortality. Fifty years after it was written, and many years after my father's death, The Cold Within is widely quoted on the internet, there's a youtube video, it's a perennial favorite among ministers of many denominations, and once appeared in Dear Abby.
The Cold Within
Six humans trapped by happenstance
In bleak and bitter cold.
Each one possessed a stick of wood
Or so the story's told.
Their dying fire in need of logs
The first man held his back
For of the faces 'round the fire
He noticed one was black.
The next man looking cross the way
Saw one not of his church
And couldn't bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.
The third one sat in tattered clothes.
He gave his coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?
The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store
And how to keep what he had earned
From the lazy, shiftess poor.
The black man's face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from sight.
For all he saw in his stick of wood
Was a chance to spite the white.
The last man of this forlorn group
Did naught except for gain.
Giving only to those who gave
Was how he played the game.
Their logs held tight in death's still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn't die from the cold without,
They died from the cold within.
James Patrick Kinney