Life is real! Life is earnest!

by chuckofish

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.

–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, A Psalm of Life

The fall season always brings me back to New England–not literally, but in my imagination–and a poem by Longfellow seems appropriate. It is good to read these old poems, so out of fashion these days, but full of good stuff!

I would like to join the throngs of leaf-peepers, but I will have to be satisfied with flyover landscapes this year.  Here are a few paintings of New England landscapes to whet the whistle, so to speak.


Eric Sloane


Winslow Homer


Robert Wesson


Alden Bryan, 1955


Luigi Lucioni, Village of Stowe, 1931

And here’s a little Thoreau to wind things up:

Minott is, perhaps, the most poetical farmer–who most realizes to me the poetry of the farmer’s life–that I know. He does nothing with haste and drudgery, but as if he loved it. He makes the most of his labor, and takes infinite satisfaction in every part of it. He is not looking forward to the sale of his crops or any pecuniary profit, but he is paid by the constant satisfaction which his labor yields him.

A Writer’s Journal

And read this from the Big Surprise file…