Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Jack London Credo of 1916

The Jack London Credo is inscribed on the the base of the Jack London statue.

I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze
than it should be stifled by dry-rot.

I would rather be a superb meteor,
every atom of me in magnificent glow,
than a sleepy and permanent planet.

The proper function of man
is to live,
not to exist.

I shall not waste my days
in trying to prolong them.

I shall use my time.


— Jack London


Placed here poetically, this quote by Jack London (1876-1916) first appeared in the December 2, 1916 edition of the San Francisco Bulletin, less than two weeks after the author's death on November 22, 1916 at age 40. Journalist Ernest J. Hopkins, who visited the London ranch just weeks before London's death, is rumored to have embellished the London Credo beyond the first sentence.

The London Credo adorns the base of the Jack London statue in Oakland's Jack London Square. Though he was born across the bay in San Francisco, London is considered a favored son of Oakland. As a boy of 10 years of age, a local librarian — Ina Coolbrith — encouraged his literary leanings. Ina herself would later become California's first poet laureate. London himself said that poetry was his first love and authored at least 50 poems.