Poem

A Psalm of Life

Footprints on the sands of time is a poem written by American writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Longfellow wrote the poem not long after the death of his first wife and while thinking about how to make the
best of life. The poem is meant to inspire its readers to live actively and neither to lament the past
nor to take the future for granted. Answering a reader’s question about the poem in 1879,
Longfellow himself summarized that the poem was ‘a transcript of my thoughts and feelings at the
time I wrote, and of the conviction therein expressed, that Life is something more than an idle
dream.’ (From Wikipedia)

A Psalm of Life

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1838)

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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Dhr Corne van Nijhuis is a scholar and has devoted his time to the study and practice of Vedanta. He is a regular contributor to this magazine.