Like almost everyone, I’ve been following the horrifying events in Paris.
The battle cries for revenge, war, and justice have already sounded and will continue. Those thoughts are natural, necessary and satisfying on some level, but I keep thinking about a favorite Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem on life.
In “A Psalm of Life,” Longfellow celebrates the sacredness of life. The innocent lives that were lost on Friday night ended in unspeakable violence, but they were all, in ways large and small, improving the world by simply being alive and for that we can be grateful.
A Psalm of Life
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1802 – 1882)
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.
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