Monday, January 12, 2009

Psalm of Life

A couple of years ago, I did a book review presentation for our Alliance on the life and poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Just three weeks ago, a long-time member of our church (and the Alliance) gave me an old illustrated copy of Longfellow's Psalm of Life that had belonged to her mother. It is a true treasure and I cherish it. Finally, this morning, we held a Memorial Service and collation for a much loved member of our congregation, and one of the chosen readings was Longfellow's Psalm of Life.
I am blessed to be part of a congregation that shows me daily, in ways large and small, what it means to be a church in the truest and deepest sense of the word. I print Longfellow's Psalm of Life today for them:

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 tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

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.
Amen and blessings


2 comments:

Elizabeth said...

I was raised on this poem. Sometimes my mother recited the seventh verse ("Lives of men ...")to my sister and me,but I can't count the number of times my mother recited the last verse to us. It's engraved on my soul, and I love it.

boston unitarian said...

Hi Elizabeth,
Thank you so much for sharing this! Many blessings to you. BU