Longfellows Optimism In Writing A Psalm Of
Life Essay, Research Paper
Look not mournfully into the past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the present. It is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear, and with a manly heart. This is a saying Longfellow read in Germany where his wife died. The words gave him hope for the future. It inspired him to want to write a series of psalms. The first one, A Psalm of Life written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is an uplifting poem that compels us to feel hope for the future. After reading it the first time it had a powerful effect on me. Surprisingly, he wrote this poem few months after his first wife died. Longfellow took his wife s death and interpreted it as a sign to look at life as fleeting and it passes quickly. I feel that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, after his wife s death, had an optimistic view on life in the poem, A Psalm of Life .
The second stanza seems to say that life is here and it must be lived. It is real and not just some dream. Line five supports this with the hopeful exclamation that Life is real! Life is earnest! In the next line he says And the grave is not its goal . Longfellow feels you don t live to die. Death is not the point of living a just life. Lastly in this stanza, he states, Dust thou art, o dust returnest, was not spoken of the soul . Our bodies will turn to dust but the soul will live on. He feel there is an afterlife and we are here forever in spirit. But what we do with our time on earth is what makes us eternal because we are remembered for how we lived our lives. (Lines 5-8, pg. 302)
In the fifth stanza Longfellow advises the reader to fight and to be active rather than sitting around in a passive way. We are told to trust no future because we don t know what the future holds. We are to act in the living present because it is the here and now that is important and we must be concerned with worrying that the future will revisit us with the pain and suffering of our past. We are not to live in the past for being stuck in the past will get you nowhere. Then in the sixth stanza, Longfellow tells to be reminded of the lives of great men because we can make our lives sublime . This shows we should look at the heroes of the past, emulate them, and follow their leads. In doing this you yourself can become a hero and leave footprints on the sands of time . We must strive to make a difference in the lives of the future so we may live on forever. (Lines25-32, pg. 302)
In the final stanza, Longfellow is prodding us to work toward achieving our goal no matter what the future holds. We must be up and doing and not sitting around watching life go by. We can t be afraid and we must live with a heart for any fate . He is saying that we must accept fate as part of the plan for the greater good of all man. We must never give up in achieving our goal because there is hope for the future. You have to keep on getting up after you fall and try again or you will never accomplish anything meaningful. Lastly, you must learn to labor and to wait . Hard work and patience is what Longfellow is calling for in this final line. He is encouraging us to work with our hearts full of optimism for a bright future. (Lines 34-36, pg. 303)
I feel that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, after his wife s death, had an optimistic outlook in A Psalm of Life . It encourages you to go out and accomplish things. It seems he felt a new resolve to live a more fulfilling life after his depression lifted. He shows through his poetry a renewed interest in moving away from the past that had troubled him. Something in his life gave him expectations and hope to live each day to the fullest and be confident the future would not revisit him with more misery.