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(27 February 1807 – 24 March 1882 / Portland, Maine)

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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 farther 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 labor and to wait.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002
Edited: Monday, May 27, 2013


Read poems about / on: funeral, hero, brother, trust, future, fate, sorrow, today, dream, life, heart, time, world, god

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Comments about this poem (Allah. (From The German Of Mahlmann) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow )

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  • Birgitta Heikka (4/15/2014 7:39:00 PM)

    One of my favorite poems. Can never get tired of reading it.

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  • Leesaan Robertson (4/14/2014 7:02:00 PM)

    Great poem with such a significant message.

  • Richard Blay (4/14/2014 2:28:00 PM)

    lovely poem there, felt it lesson. great!

  • Thomas Vaughan Jones (4/14/2014 1:29:00 PM)

    Curious. The poet switches from an avuncular advisor to a friendly workmate and never misses a step. Great message couched in perfect rhyme. Let us be up and doing, concentrating on the spiritual and letting materialism take back seat. What poet in any generation could do more.

  • Babatunde Aremu (4/14/2014 4:28:00 AM)

    What else can I say than to say thank you for this evergreen 'sermon' (poem) . Great write

  • Sandra Feldman (4/14/2014 1:29:00 AM)

    Great advise in beautiful stanzas.
    But the world today does not listen
    They only want drugs and extravaganzas

  • Lorraine Margueritte Gasrel Black (4/1/2014 11:56:00 AM)

    Very wise and well written..good message..Enjoy living! ! !

  • Kit Shum (3/26/2014 10:52:00 PM)

    Probably the greatest poem I have ever read. We had to recite this for class, and to this day, I can still do it. A rousing and inspiring poem that every young person should learn.

  • Paul Stone (3/23/2014 4:42:00 PM)

    The struggle for meaning in the face of mystery challenges every person; great religions share this and Judeo-Christianity perhaps more than others the beauty of individuality as well as relationship. While rarely using religious language, Longfellow indeed tells us much of what faith teaches about the meaning and value of life itself; doubt-
    less God's greatest creation. Longfellow wrestles fearlessly it would seem, the existential question.

  • Krishnakumar Chandrasekar Nair (3/1/2014 8:48:00 AM)

    Foot prints of those who walked and died
    Embedded in our prose, poetry and mind
    Such as him worthy of every verse that rings
    Truly timeless in its beauty and the bliss it brings...............

    My favorite poet and poem. I welcome all to my page too

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