A Psalm of Life…

My senior year in high school, I gave a speech at graduation, and remember including this quote in the speech, “Let us then be up and doing, with a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, learn to labor and to wait.” I couldn’t remember the source of the quote, and for some reason I was just thinking about those lines the other night as it relates to some things going on in my personal life – specifically distinguishing between when I need to “labor” and to “wait.” Well, I googled that quote and boy did I run across a jewel of a find! The quote is from “Psalm of Life (What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist)” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Here is the poem in its entirety:



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.

My 18 year old self probably skimmed that poem and found it inspiring and “quotable” for a graduation speech, but my 33 year old self is moved to tears by the depth of this brilliant poem. When my son gets a little bit older (he’s only 3!), this will be one that we commit to memory and discuss. It is truly a work of art. What do you think? Does this poem inspire you to “act in the living present,” to “be up and doing with a heart for any fate,” to see that each “tomorrow find you farther than today?”

I am definitely still pursuing…and learning to labor and to wait….

What about you? What about your children?

“Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58

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