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Monday, January 7, 2019

"Life is Real, Life is Earnest and the Grave is Not Its Goal!"



This video talk got me thinking about Longfellow's poem on life. The last line, "learn to labor and to wait," makes me think of the Blessed Mother who pondered all things in her heart -- perpetually waiting on the Lord to reveal His will for her.

Longfellow was a Unitarian, but he treated the Catholic faith with respect and, as one writer described him, was "Christ-haunted." So much of his poetry rings with Catholic music. He inspired the Christmas carol, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, with these lyrics:

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Of course, the carol twists the Scripture, peace on earth to men of good will, a common mistake, but it still emphasizes that God will not be thwarted and the evil around us will never prevail. That message resounds more than ever today when we see so much corruption around us, even in our beloved Church.

Longfellow experienced many tragedies in life. His first wife died at age 22 following a miscarriage. His second died of burns after her dress caught on fire. Wordsworth himself was badly burned trying to save her and wore a beard for the rest of his life as a result. An opponent of slavery, he grieved over the devastation of the Civil War and worked for the reconciliation of both sides. 

The first American to translate the Divine Comedy into English, Longfellow obviously was influenced by Dante's Catholic soul. I'm praying for him today especially in thanksgiving for his body of work that celebrates the American spirit. Since God is outside time, my specific prayer is that Mary, Jesus, and Joseph surrounded him at the hour of his death on March 24, 1882. How could they not want to welcome a man so profoundly touched by the supernatural?

Lord, help us all to live our lives, not for this world, but for the next. 

May 2019 be a year of blessing, joy, and a closer walk with the Lord for each of us.

A Psalm of Life

BY HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW

What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist.

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.


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