Longfellow: The Psalm of Life


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on February 27, 1807 in Portland, Maine. His famous works include “Paul Revere’s Ride”, “The Song of Hiawatha”, “Evangeline”, and “Christmas Bells”.  Of course, his immortalization of Paul Revere is by far his most famous. What American school child in the last 130 years has not memorized:

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April in seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year…

…One; if by land, And two; if by sea
And i on the opposite shore will be
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
To every middlesex village and farm
For the country folk to be up and arm.

Today, however, we feature another of Mr. Longfellow’s most stirring works. It’s a poem and and an affirmation all at the same time. The final stanza is often quoted as an affirmation, but the whole poem will light a fire under your mid winter Wednesday.

“A Psalm of Life”

What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist.

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!-
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled dreams are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act – act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and learn to wait.

Be peaceful Be prosperous!

Ray Davis
for 6 Sense Media