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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.




You already know something about Longfellow's friendly and beautiful way of writing. This poem, composed when he was a young man, is so well known that most of its lines have become common sayings and are quoted by men who have never read it.

It has been translated into numerous foreign languages and has cheered and comforted the people of many countries.

When Longfellow wrote the poem he had been thinking about some sad verses that told him that life was not worth living. He put his answer into “A Psalm of Life," and he begins by saying, in the first stanza, that if people dream they must be asleep, and if they sleep all the time it is just the same as if they were dead.

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1. What is a psalm? 2. Why is it impossible that life should be a dream? 3. Which stanza explains the difference between the body and the soul? 4. How have you found out by yourself that life is real and earnest ? 5. What two stanzas make us think of soldiers? What is the difference between cattle and men ? 6. What line tells us that poetry and paintings and music and all other beautiful things last long after the men who made them are dead? Can you think of any ancient country whose art still lives ? 7. Which stanza reminds you of Robinson Crusoe? 8. Which line tells us not to think too much about the pleasant things that are going to happen? Why is this good advice? 9. Which line tells us not to think too much about what happened last week or last year? 10. Which stanza hints that we ought to learn all we can about great men and great women? 11. Mention some people who have left “ footprints on the sands of time.” 12. Which lines tell us that every day we ought to learn something new and grow kinder and better? 13. Pick out the lines and stanzas that tell us that we ought to act, to do something. 14. Which passages tell us that we ought to act courageously, cheerfully? 15. Repeat the stanza that you like best.

For Study with the Glossary: destined, art, fleeting, bivouac, sublime, fate, achieving, mournful numbers, “Dust thou art, to dust returnest," heart within.


Whither, midst falling dew,
While glow the heavens with the last steps of day,
Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue

Thy solitary way?


Vainly the fowler's eye
Might mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong,
As, darkly seen against the crimson sky,

Thy figure floats along.



Seek'st thou the plashy brink
Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide,
Or where the rocking billows rise and sink

On the chafed ocean side ?

There is a Power whose care
Teaches thy way along that pathless coast,
The desert and illimitable air,

Lone wandering, but not lost.


All day thy wings have fanned,
At that far height, the cold, thin atmosphere,
Yet stoop not, weary, to the welcome land,

Though the dark night is near.


And soon that toil shall end;
Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest,
And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend,

Soon, o'er thy sheltered nest.


Thou’rt gone, the abyss of heaven
Hath swallowed up thy form; yet, on my heart
Deeply hath sunk the lesson thou hast given,

And shall not soon depart.

He who, from zone to zone, 10 Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight, In the long way that I must tread alone, Will lead my steps aright.



In this beautiful poem we see a waterfowl, separated from the rest of the flock, flying southward in search of a warmer land where it can build its nest. The stanzas are not at all like the stanzas of “A Psalm of Life." Each poet wished to make the music of his poem fit its meaning, and so each chose a different kind of stanza. Which has the slower music? In reading Bryant's poem, make a strong pause at the end of the third line.

1. Which of the pictures in this poem do you see most clearly when you shut your eyes? 2. What time of day is it? 3. What time of year? 4. What water birds have you seen flying south in the fall? 5. What is a fowler ? 6. What kind of summer home


does the waterfowl seek? 7. Who is the Power in the fourth stanza ? 8. What is meant by the “ pathless coast? 9. What is the lesson of the poem? 10. Commit it to memory.

For Study with the Glossary: fowler, plashy, marge, chafed, illimitable, abyss, zone.



I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers

From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid

In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken

The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother's breast,

As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,

And whiten the green plains under;
And then again I dissolve in rain,

And laugh as I pass in thunder.



I sift the snow on the mountains below,

And their great pines groan aghast; And all the night ’tis my pillow white,

While I sleep in the arms of the blast. Sublime on the towers of my skyey bowers

Lightning, my pilot, sits;

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