Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807-1882
I can't say I'm a huge fan of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. My closest brush with him was staying near his house for a few days in Cambridge years ago. His longer poems like Evangeline and Song of Hiawatha never tempted me, although I kind of like his translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. He was even a character in Matthew Pearl's entertaining 2003 mystery The Dante Club, but I digress.
Anyhow, I somehow stumbled upon a charmingly retro poem of his that I think is worth sharing, especially in times like these:
A Psalm of LifeWhat 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-morrowFind us farther than to-day.Art is long, and Time is fleeting,And our hearts, though stout and brave,Still, like muffled drums, are beatingFuneral 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 usWe can make our lives sublime,And, departing, leave behind usFootprints 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 to wait.