A Psalm of Life

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.


  1. These footprints are permanent (even though time isn’t), suggesting that someone’s legacy has the power to outlast them.

    — Allegra Keys, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a bivouac is "1: a usually temporary encampment under little or no shelter 2: encampment usually for a night.

    — Allegra Keys, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. This excellent contrast demonstrates how art, a product of the soul, lasts forever, but bodies and time will not.

    — Allegra Keys, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. The words spoken and soul use assonance (the same vowel sounds).

    — Allegra Keys, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. Psalms are inherently religious as they are songs associated with Christianity and Judaism. This line disagrees with the religious belief that the soul is the most alive upon entering the Afterlife. This line is saying live now.

    — Allegra Keys, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. This poem follows an ABAB form and a mostly trochaic meter.

    — Allegra Keys, Owl Eyes Editor