logo

A Psalm of Life

A Psalm of LifeIn another example of more wonderful poetry A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) is a moving poem that encourages us to better ourselves and pursue personal development.

Longfellow indicates that it's what happens between birth and death that is important, and how we should seek to find our own path, be individuals and live life to the fullest.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American literary figure born in Portland, Maine in 1807.

Although he identified with the great traditions of European literature and thought, he was rooted in American life and history.

Longfellow travelled extensively throughout Europe, learning seven languages and studying the classical literature and contemporary authors of many countries. He was the first to write the American translation of Dante's Divine Comedy.

Longfellow's circle of friends and acquaintances included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, his lifelong friend and no light-weight himself, wrote: "I read your poems over and over . . . nothing equal to some of them was ever written in this world."

A Psalm of Life

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 further than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, 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 labour and to wait.

As T.S. Elliot said: "Genuine poetry can communicate even before it is understood."

The Arts and Personal Development
The Wonder of Poetry
footer2