Longfellow’s Timely Celebration of Life

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“1ife: the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body”

from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/life

We have been duped into accepting something as life that by definition is not. Fear, the most infectious disease spreading across the globe, has crippled us. The prescription: isolation. Look at the empty stands of sporting events (where they install cardboard humans or pump in fake crowd sounds), note how many schools have shut their doors once again (despite the advice of the CDC), listen to the governors of state after state nearly mandating house arrest for this Thanksgiving holiday (and likely, if they have their way, on into Christmas and beyond): isolation at its finest. Is this life? We’ve been sold survival instead of life, and many have bought it.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the noted Fireside Poets, speaks profoundly to our state of the union. Whether he was responding to the dark romantics like Edgar Allan Poe who wrote, “Is all that we see or seem / But a dream within a dream?” or whether he too had to combat the prevailing numbers (statistics) or narratives that suggested the futility and fragility of life, I don’t know for sure. But if he were alive today, I’m confident his advice to us would come from his poem A Psalm of Life. There’s such wisdom in these lines: a realization that things are not as they appear to be, that we are all dying (pandemic or not) but we are called to act in the living present, not simply be led like dumb driven cattle by the loudest voices of our time, and that our very lives lived fully in this battle of life (you know that it’s a battle not just a living wage, right?) will be an inspiration to others who come after us. The final stanza says it best, but I’ll leave that for you to savor.

“Take courage my heart, stay steadfast my soul, He’s in the waiting” ~ Kristene DiMarco

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.

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