• 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.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on February 27, 1807, in Portland, Maine. After graduating from Bowdoin College, he studied modern languages in Europe for three years and then returned to Bowdoin to teach. In 1831 he married Mary Storer Potter of Portland, a former classmate, but in November 1835, Mary died during a miscarriage. Longfellow took a position at Harvard in 1836 and within the next few years published two poetry collections that became very popular. He married Frances Appleton, a young woman from Boston, and they had six children, five of whom lived to adulthood. In 1847, he published Evangeline, a book-length poem that remains an American classic. In 1854, Longfellow published Hiawatha, a long poem about Native American life that is also a classic in American poetry. A few months after the Civil War began in 1861, his beloved wife was burnt to death in a terrible domestic accident. In 1882, after the poet’s death, Walt Whitman wrote that Longfellow “comes as the poet of melancholy, courtesy, deference — poet of all sympathetic gentleness — and a universal poet of women and young people.”

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