Ikuro Teshima

A Psalm of Life
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 labour and to wait.

Longfellow's A Psalm of Life has always been my favorite poem since my high school years; I cherished it as the psalm of my heart and recited it many times. Whenever I was despaired with a lack of self-confidence, or was perplexed in life, I found hope and encouragement in it. Out of the one hundred and fifty Psalms in the Bible, some twenty or thirty are like precious jewels; and I consider this poem as valuable as they are.

Why should we read this poem? It is because the poem teaches us what kind of life-perspective we have determines the kind of life we will build. Man is a thinking animal; according to the way we think, we form our personality and life. "Be it unto you as you believe!" said Jesus Christ. What we believe now, how we think of the present, will determine our own fate and crystallize our future. If you think of God and love Him, you will be a child of God; but if you think of the earth and love it, you will become dust.

Without firmly establishing your view of life, you cannot launch into steadfast faith, because your faith determines how you live a life. If your faith is strict and moralistic, you cannot enjoy your life; your heart will be troubled with complexes and your life will not be compatible with your faith. On the other hand, if your faith and attitude toward life reflect what this poem states, your life will be positive and valuable.

I have attempted to encourage myself by reciting this poem daily, in order to establish the free and positive faith pertinent to the Bible. I believe that you also will benefit from this poem; it will surely give you good influence and henceforth improve your life. In our present times especially, I feel strongly the importance of reading this type of poem in order to stir our minds.

(1960)