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."
Life is real! Life is
And the grave is not its goal;
"Dust thou art, to dust returnest,"
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not
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
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world's broad field
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe'er
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act -- act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!
Lives of great men all
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait.