Tuesday, March 3, 2015

sublime {words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow}

Photograph: A single inscribed page in a small ringed binder, holding two stanzas from Longfellow's poem A Psalm of Life; handwritten by my great-grandmother, Elinor Hazel Will Voorhees, 1888-1965. I discovered this page last night while looking through a trunk that holds her belongings.  Last week, while going through boxes of my own belongings long in storage, I came upon a book of Longfellow's poetry given to me by the dearest of friends.  A Psalm of life was one of the pieces I immediately savored.  I did not know Eleanor in her lifetime, but this is not the first time that her life has touched mine, and I am honored by  her footprints in time that do indeed spur me on.

   
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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.

~ A Psalm of Life, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

With gratitude,
Joanna

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