A Psalm of Life "Let Us, Then, Be Up And Doing"

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Let Us, Then, Be Up And Doing"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In "A Psalm of Life" Longfellow's soul uplifts his despondent mind, as the subtitle reveals: "What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist." The poem reflects the philosophy of Goethe's Wilhelm Meister. Longfellow expresses Victorian industriousness and confidence in the value of life and the human struggle: "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." The human soul is immortal: "Life is real! Life is earnest!/ And the grave is not its goal." We must work with haste and vigor, "that each tomorrow/ Find us farther than today," for life is very short: "Art is long, and Time is fleeting," the poet counsels, echoing Goethe. We shall soon die, but in life's brief battle we must not be "like dumb, driven cattle! / Be a hero in the strife!" We must not trust the future or live in "the dead Past"; we must "act in the living Present!/ Heart within, and God o'erhead!" The achievements of great men show us the glorious heights that human life can reach; a great man dies leaving "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.