A Psalm of Life

A Poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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” is a poem written by American writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, often subtitled “What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist”. (see more)

 

If

A Poem by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

The Undiscovered Country

A Poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Man has explored all countries and all lands,
And made his own the secrets of each clime.
Now, ere the world has fully reached its prime,
The oval earth lies compassed with steel bands;
The seas are slaves to ships that touch all strands,
And even the haughty elements sublime
And bold, yield him their secrets for all time,
And speed like lackeys forth at his commands.

Still, though he search from shore to distant shore,
And no strange realms, no unlocated plains
Are left for his attainment and control,
Yet is there one more kingdom to explore.
Go, know thyself, O man! there yet remains
The undiscovered country of thy soul!

A Dream Within A Dream

A Poem by Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

A Dream Within a Dream” is a poem written by American poet Edgar Allan Poe, (see more)

The Plough

A Poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

If you listen you will hear, from east to west,
Growing sounds of discontent and deep unrest.
It is just the progress-driven plough of God,
Tearing up the well-worn custom-bounded sod;
Shaping out each old tradition-trodden track
Into furrows, fertile furrows, rich and black.
Oh, what harvests they will yield
When they widen to a field.

They will widen, they will broaden, day by day,
As the Progress-driven plough keeps on its way.
It will riddle all the ancient roads that lead
Into palaces of selfishness and greed;
It will tear away the almshouse and the slum
That the little homes and garden plots may come.
Yes, the gardens green and sweet
Shall replace the stony street.

Let the wise man hear the menace that is blent
In this ever-growing sound of discontent.
Let him hear the rising clamour of the race
That the few shall yield the many larger space.
For the crucial hour is coming when the soil
Must be given to, or taken back by Toil
Oh, that mighty plough of God;
Hear it breaking through the sod!

A Telephonic Conversation

Fiction by Mark Twain

Consider that a conversation by telephone–when you are simply sitting by and not taking any part in that conversation–is one of the solemnest curiosities of modern life. Yesterday I was writing a deep article on a sublime philosophical subject while such a conversation was going on in the room. I notice that one can always write best when somebody is talking through a telephone close by. Well, the thing began in this way. A member of our household came in and asked me to have our house put into communication with Mr. Bagley’s downtown. I have observed, in many cities, that the gentle sex always shrink from calling up the central office themselves. I don’t know why, but they do. So I touched the bell, and this talk ensued:

CENTRAL OFFICE. (gruffy.) Hello!

I. Is it the Central Office?

C. O. Of course it is. What do you want?

I. Will you switch me on to the Bagleys, please?

C. O. All right. Just keep your ear to the telephone.

Then I heard k-look, k-look, k’look–klook-klook-klook-look-look! then a horrible “gritting” of teeth, and finally a piping female voice: Y-e-s? (rising inflection.) Did you wish to speak to me?

Without answering, I handed the telephone to the applicant, and sat down. Then followed that queerest of all the queer things in this world– a conversation with only one end of it. You hear questions asked; you don’t hear the answer. You hear invitations given; you hear no thanks in return. You have listening pauses of dead silence, followed by apparently irrelevant and unjustifiable exclamations of glad surprise or sorrow or dismay. You can’t make head or tail of the talk, because you never hear anything that the person at the other end of the wire says. Well, I heard the following remarkable series of observations, all from the one tongue, and all shouted– for you can’t ever persuade the gentle sex to speak gently into a telephone:

Yes? Why, how did that happen?

Pause.

What did you say?

Pause.

Oh no, I don’t think it was.

Pause.

No! Oh no, I didn’t mean that. I meant, put it in while it is still boiling–or just before it comes to a boil.

Pause.

What?

Pause.

I turned it over with a backstitch on the selvage edge.

Pause.

Yes, I like that way, too; but I think it’s better to baste it on with Valenciennes or bombazine, or something of that sort. It gives it such an air–and attracts so much noise.

Pause.

It’s forty-ninth Deuteronomy, sixty-forth to ninety-seventh inclusive. I think we ought all to read it often.

Pause.

Perhaps so; I generally use a hair pin.

Pause.

What did you say? (aside.) Children, do be quiet!

Pause

Oh! B flat! Dear me, I thought you said it was the cat!

Pause.

Since when?

Pause.

Why, I never heard of it.

Pause.

You astound me! It seems utterly impossible!

Pause.

Who did?

Pause.

Good-ness gracious!

Pause.

Well, what is this world coming to? Was it right in church?

Pause.

And was her mother there?

Pause.

Why, Mrs. Bagley, I should have died of humiliation! What did they do?

Long pause.

I can’t be perfectly sure, because I haven’t the notes by me; but I think it goes something like this: te-rolly-loll-loll, loll lolly-loll-loll, O tolly-loll-loll-lee-ly-li-I-do! And then repeat, you know.

Pause.

Yes, I think it is very sweet–and very solemn and impressive, if you get the andantino and the pianissimo right.

Pause.

Oh, gum-drops, gum-drops! But I never allow them to eat striped candy. And of course they can’t, till they get their teeth, anyway.

Pause.

What?

Pause.

Oh, not in the least–go right on. He’s here writing–it doesn’t bother him.

Pause.

Very well, I’ll come if I can. (aside.) Dear me, how it does tire a person’s arm to hold this thing up so long! I wish she’d–

Pause.

Oh no, not at all; I like to talk–but I’m afraid I’m keeping you from your affairs.

Pause.

Visitors?

Pause.

No, we never use butter on them.

Pause.

Yes, that is a very good way; but all the cook-books say they are very unhealthy when they are out of season. And he doesn’t like them, anyway–especially canned.

Pause.

Oh, I think that is too high for them; we have never paid over fifty cents a bunch.

Pause.

Must you go? Well, good-by.

Pause.

Yes, I think so. Good-by.

Pause.

Four o’clock, then–I’ll be ready. Good-by.

Pause.

Thank you ever so much. Good-by.

Pause.

Oh, not at all!–just as fresh–which? Oh, I’m glad to hear you say that. Good-by.

(Hangs up the telephone and says, “Oh, it does tire a person’s arm so!”)

A man delivers a single brutal “Good-by,” and that is the end of it. Not so with the gentle sex–I say it in their praise; they cannot abide abruptness.

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)

A Poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Analysis of How Do I Love Thee?

Sonnets from the Portuguese

When I do count the clock that tells the time (Sonnet 12)

A Poem by William Shakespeare

When I do count the clock that tells the time, 
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night; 
When I behold the violet past prime, 
And sable curls all silver’d o’er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves 
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves 
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard, 
Then of thy beauty do I question make, 
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow; 
   And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence
   Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

Sonnet 12 is one of 154 sonnets written by the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare. (see more)

Dream-Land

A Poem by Edgar Allan Poe

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named night,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule —
From a wild clime that lieth, sublime,
Out of SPACE — Out of TIME.

Bottomless vales and boundless floods,
And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,
With forms that no man can discover
For the tears that drip all over;
Mountains toppling evermore
Into seas without a shore;
Seas that restlessly aspire,
Surging, unto skies of fire;
Lakes that endlessly outspread
Their lone waters, lone and dead,
Their still waters, still and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily.

By the lakes that thus outspread
Their lone waters — lone and dead, —
Their sad waters, sad and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily, —
By the mountains — near the river
Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever, —
By the grey woods, — by the swamp
Where the toad and the newt encamp, —
By the dismal tarns and pools
Where dwell the Ghouls, —
By each spot the most unholy —
In each nook most melancholy, —
There the traveller meets aghast
Sheeted Memories of the Past —
Shrouded forms that start and sigh
As they pass the wanderer by —
White-robed forms of friends long given,
In agony, to the Earth — and Heaven.

For the heart whose woes are legion
‘Tis a peaceful, soothing region
For the spirit that walks in shadow
‘Tis — oh ’tis an Eldorado!
But the traveller, travelling through it,
May not — dare not openly view it!
Never its mysteries are exposed
To the weak human eye unclosed;
So wills its King, who hath forbid
The uplifting of the fringed lid;
And thus the sad Soul that here passes
Beholds it but through darkened glasses.

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named night,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have wandered home but newly
From this ultimate dim Thule.

Analysis of Dream-Land

The Conqueror Worm

A Poem by Edgar Allan Poe

Lo! ’tis a gala night
Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
In veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre, to see
A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.

Mimes, in the form of God on high,
Mutter and mumble low,
And hither and thither fly
Mere puppets they, who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
That shift the scenery to and fro,
Flapping from out their Condor wings
Invisible Wo!

That motley drama oh, be sure
It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore,
By a crowd that seize it not,
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot,
And much of Madness, and more of Sin,
And Horror the soul of the plot.

But see, amid the mimic rout
A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes! it writhes! with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food,
And the angels sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued.

Out out are the lights out all!
And, over each quivering form,
The curtain, a funeral pall,
Comes down with the rush of a storm,
And the angels, all pallid and wan,
Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy, “Man,”
And its hero the Conqueror Worm.

The Conqueror Worm” is a poem by Edgar Allan Poe about human mortality and the inevitability of death. (see more)