“A Psalm of Life: Let Us Be Up and Doing”

I thought about posting a biblical poem today, but once again, I was overwhelmed by my choices, so I decided to share Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “A Psalm of Life.” I happened across the poem this morning as I was reading through Our Daily Bread: Timeless Wisdom to Nourish the Soul, a gorgeous book I purchased nearly 20 years ago. The book is overflowing with scripture, poetry, and meditations.

Longfellow’s message is timely–life is real and we should live it to the fullest.

A Psalm of Life
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

What 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-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.


About today’s images: Today’s images are from a set of photo cards designed by my photographer/art journalist friend Diane W (midteacher on swap-bot). You have seen Diane’s stunning creations on the blog many times. She sent the photos in a beautifully designed handmade envelope filled with photo goodies and design surprises (like hidden pockets filled with photos, stitching, and butterflies). The set has been sitting in my “to be blogged” bin for nearly two years! The two included here are perfect matches for Wadsworth’s poem. To see what Diane has been up to lately, check out her Instagram page: A Focused Journey.

“Peace on Earth! Good Will Toward Men”

Untitled 2 6

Christmas Bells

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said:
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

❧❧❧
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”—(Luke 2:14).

May you and yours experience God’s peace and His good will (towards you) not only for the holiday season but always…

Merry Christmas!

Pause for a Poet

I’ve had a busy, busy week as I’m experiencing a major transition.  I thought I wouldn’t have time to post again for at least another two weeks, but today’s fun mail compelled me to pause and share.

I received three postcards today for bookish swaps, two from Eric, who typically sends two postcards. Every now and then a postcard makes me squeal with glee. This one certainly did.

Longfellow Home

Longfellow’s Home, Portland, Maine.

Perhaps, if you’re not a lover of poetry or of American poetry, you have no idea why this excites me. Maybe, you assume it’s because this is a vintage postcard.  That would be a great guess, but that’s not exactly it.  I thoroughly appreciate having this card in my possession, one that, as Eric pointed out, was printed just 30-40 years after Longfellow’s death.  So this truly vintage postcard adds to my excitement that this is a literary postcard that features a poet of old.  With the exception of reading Hiawatha last summer with my little one, I have not studied Longfellow since my graduate school days.  This was a a nice way to remind me to add him to my reading list.

The postcard back reads:

Longfellow’s Home.  The Longfellow Home, erected in 1785, is situated in the business center of the city.  The building and precious relics are in care of the Maine Historical Society, and is open to visitors.

Interesting (and irrelevant) tidbit–when Longfellow was born Portland, Maine was a part of Massachusetts.

Since the back is just as wonderful as the front, you might as well take a look.

Longfellow Home. Postcard Back

Postcard Back

Did you notice the postage? Take a closer look.

Longfellow Postage and Handstamped Postmark

Longfellow Postage and Postmark

My utter delight was magnified by Eric’s matching of the postage with postcard theme!  And don’t you love Longfellow’s portraits, all that beautiful wild, white hair?

The postcard took a little beating as it traveled through the United States Postal System.  Some people are bothered by the “damage done” to postcards sent “naked” through the mail, but I like the visible “scars.”  Something about them makes the postcard feel more “authentic.”

If you read the postcard, you’ll notice that Eric ends with a question:

If you had the choice, would you prefer being celebrated during your lifetime like [Longfellow] was or after like Dickinson?

Tough, tough question.  I’m on the fence.  My volumes–literally boxes full–of unpublished writings suggest that I subconsciously eschew the limelight.  While, perhaps, some celebrity would be tolerated, I’d probably be more comfortable with anonymity.  Posthumous popularity would benefit my family, I assume, and that’s a good thing. But beyond notoriety and (perhaps) financial gain, there’s also something wonderfully satisfactory about bearing witness to the light your work brings to others.

How would you answer?  Popularity while living or when you’re dead?

Think about that. I’ll leave you with a poem that I’m going to read tonight to my son–The fun-loving, mischievous daughters remind me of him.

The Children’s Hour by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Between the dark and the daylight,
   When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
   That is known as the Children’s Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
   The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
   And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
   Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
   And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
   Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
   To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
   A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
   They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
   O’er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
   They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
   Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
   In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
   Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
   Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
   And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
   In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
   Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
   And moulder in dust away!