The Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Psalm of life was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He wrote this poem after the death of his first wife. It was published in October 1838. This poem contains 9 stanzas. It tells us that life is not as dull and grave as it may seem sometimes, instead it is full of opportunities.

“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.”

In the first stanza, the poet says that life is full of adventures and opportunities for those who look, but for pessimists, life is as boring as it can get.

“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.”

The ultimate goal of life is not death; life continues after death too as the line that we are made of dust and we will become dust is not meant for the soul but only for the body. The soul lives on after death too.

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

in the third stanza, the poet tries to explain that we can never have only enjoyment or only sorrow in life, life is perfectly balanced consisting of both joy and sorrow. We must work every day to learn and grow.

“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.”

Our time on earth is limited, we need to make the most of it. Our heart is brave but there are times when we realize that we are approaching the end and it seems scary.

“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!”

Life is a battlefield and we should fight and come out victorious like a hero. We should have a goal, a motive in our life, we should not follow someone else’s footsteps like cattle.

“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!”

We should not worry about the future nor the past but we must work towards making our present better.

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

Like all the great personalities, we can also leave our footprints on this world with our good work. When people die, their art and their good work are the only things that are left behind.

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

Those who feel lost in their lives might take inspiration from the past heroes and they must get up again to fight their battles in life.

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

Therefore, we must make the most of each day, we must be strong enough to deal with storms in our life. With a curious mind and heart, we must work towards a better life.

Categories: Literature

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