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January 9, 2012

I remember memorizing excerpts from two poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in gradeschool.  They were A Psalm of Life and The Builders.I have to thank Kendal Cotton for causing me to think more recently about the idea of fate.  While I’m not sure I exactly share his views, he’s done a lot of thinking on the subject.  Anyway, thinking about fate, and how we can affect it, reminded me of those poems, and I thought I would share one of them with you.

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.

There is much there that I like, but I particularly like the call to individuality and thought in the fifth stanza.  I also like the sentiment of the last three stanzas calling one to personal action.  There is much in our day that needs changing, and we have the opportunity to influence many.  Let us be careful to use our influence for good.  Let us leave our footprints in the lives of those around us.




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