Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I'm Leaving With Longfellow

It's over.

Today's the last day of National Poetry Month and this has been a delightful diversion. For me, anyway. I think I lost about 78.2% of my readers with the poetry thing. That's all right.
April is a woolly and un-spooly kind of month and visiting poems like old friends has been a nice break in things. Did you read any that you liked? Did you find some others that you'd forgotten about? Did you bake any pretzels? Oh, I did. Boy did I.

Listen, now. There's such music in life. Such rhythm and rhyme and a beat of some sort everywhere you care to look. Sometimes it's a funeral dirge. Sometimes it's a chaotic free-form jazz. Sometimes it's a lilting melody or an Irish jig. Listen for it and dance when you can. Poems are part of that music. They help the words to dance.

There were so many poets I love that I never got to: Angelou, Sandburg, Thomas, Cummings, and on and on. A poet for every occasion. Now here is something you can do if you get curious or bored: You can go here and check out this list of the top 500 poems. I suppose they are arranged by number of times searched or something, but there are some good ones on there. It's like a bowl of pretzel bites. You can munch a few and then come back later if you want.

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with this old chestnut. There's a reason it's a classic.

A Psalm of Life

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 are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

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 sand of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solenm 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, 1807-1882


  1. Ah Longfellow. My junior high English teacher's favorite poet. We spent quite a lot of time studying him and his poems. In fact I had to memorize "A Psalm of Life."

    My favorite of his, perhaps is quite cliché, but it is my favorite nonetheless: "The Road Not Taken."

    1. "A Psalm of Life" is definitely worth memorizing. It's nice to know that such thoughts are permanently lodged in memories the world over.

      And, psst, Larissa... "The Road Not Taken" is Robert Frost.

  2. Last October we saw the Carl Sandburg home here in western NC and it was a gorgeous. His copper girl really haunts me. "They lived next to the earth for her sake."

    1. I love visiting writers' homes. I just like to soak up the remains of their environment and look out their windows and see what they saw.
      Sandburg is a definite favorite with me. I'd love to see his home sometime.

  3. Your footprints make me take heart. Every time.

  4. "A Psalm of Life" was one of my 86 year old Dad's favorite poem. In fact, my three brothers and I earned our allowance each week by memorizing a line a week.

    1. Hello Lottie! Thanks for stopping by. That is such a fantastic memory, thank you for sharing it here. What a great dad to fill your minds and your pockets at the same time!


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