Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime, And departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (27 February 180724 March 1882) was an American poet and one of the five members of the group known as the Fireside Poets.

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  • Music is the universal language of mankind — poetry their universal pastime and delight.
    • Outre-Mer
  • I heard the trailing garments of the Night
    Sweep through her marble halls!
    I saw her sable skirts all fringed with light
    From the celestial walls!
  • There is a Reaper, whose name is Death,
    And, with his sickle keen,
    He reaps the bearded grain at a breath,
    And the flowers that grow between.
  • 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.
  • Thus, seamed with many scars
    Bursting these prison bars,
    Up to its native stars
    My soul ascended!
    There from the flowing bowl
    Deep drinks the warrior's soul,
    Skoal! to the Northland! skoal!
    —Thus the tale ended.
  • No one is so accursed by fate,
    No one so utterly desolate,
    But some heart, though unknown,
    Responds unto his own.
  • Into each life some rain must fall,
    Some days must be dark and dreary.
  • I like that ancient Saxon phrase, which calls
    The burial-ground God's-Acre! It is just;
    It consecrates each grave within its walls,
    And breathes a benison o'er the sleeping dust.
  • Standing, with reluctant feet,
    Where the brook and river meet,
    Womanhood and childhood fleet!
  • The shades of night were falling fast,
    As through an Alpine village passed
    A youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice,
    A banner with the strange device,
    Excelsior!
  • Stars of the summer night!
    Far in yon azure deeps,
    Hide, hide your golden light!
    She sleeps!
    My lady sleeps!
  • I stood on the bridge at midnight,
    As the clocks were striking the hour,
    And the moon rose o'er the city,
    Behind the dark church-tower.
  • Never here, forever there,
    Where all parting, pain, and care,
    And death, and time shall disappear,—
    Forever there, but never here!
    The horologe of Eternity
    Sayeth this incessantly,—
    "Forever--never!
    Never--forever!"
  • And the song, from beginning to end,
    I found again in the heart of a friend.
    • The Arrow and the Song, st. 3
  • Ah, how wonderful is the advent of spring! — the great annual miracle of the blossoming of Aaron's rod, repeated on myriads and myriads of branches! — the gentle progression and growth of herbs, flowers, trees, — gentle and yet irrepressible, — which no force can stay, no violence restrain, like love, that wins its way and cannot be withstood by any human power, because itself is divine power. If spring came but once in a century, instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake, and not in silence, what wonder and expectation there would be in all hearts to behold the miraculous change! But now the silent succession suggests nothing but necessity. To most men only the cessation of the miracle would be miraculous and the perpetual exercise of God's power seems less wonderful than its withdrawal would be.
    • "Kavanagh : A Tale" (1849) Ch. 13
  • I am more afraid of deserving criticism than of receiving it. I stand in awe of my own opinion. The secret demerits of which we alone, perhaps, are conscious, are often more difficult to bear than those which have been publicly censured in us, and thus in some degree atoned for.
    • Kavanagh : A Tale (1849) Ch. 30
  • Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.
    • Kavanagh : A Tale (1849) Ch. 30
  • There is no flock, however watched and tended,
    But one dead lamb is there!
    There is no fireside, howsoe'er defended,
    But has one vacant chair!
  • There is no Death! What seems so is transition;
    This life of mortal breath
    Is but a suburb of the life elysian,
    Whose portal we call Death.
    • Resignation, st. 5
  • Nothing useless is, or low;
    Each thing in its place is best;
    And what seems but idle show
    Strengthens and supports the rest.
  • God sent his Singers upon earth
    With songs of sadness and of mirth,
    That they might touch the hearts of men,
    And bring them back to heaven again.
  • But the great Master said, "I see
    No best in kind, but in degree;
    I gave a various gift to each,
    To charm, to strengthen, and to teach.
    • The Singers, st. 6
  • If the great Captain of Plymouth is so very eager to wed me,
    Why does he not come himself, and take the trouble to woo me?
    If I am not worth the wooing, I surely am not worth the winning!
  • But as he warmed and glowed, in his simple and eloquent language,
    Quite forgetful of self, and full of the praise of his rival,
    Archly the maiden smiled, and, with eyes over-running with laughter,
    Said, in a tremulous voice, "Why don't you speak for yourself, John?
    • The Courtship of Miles Standish, Pt. III, The Lover's Errand
  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.
    • Driftwood (1857)
  • Saint Augustine! well hast thou said,
    That of our vices we can frame
    A ladder, if we will but tread
    Beneath our feet each deed of shame!
  • The heights by great men reached and kept
    Were not attained by sudden flight,
    But they, while their companions slept,
    Were toiling upward in the night.
    • The Ladder of St. Augustine, st. 10
  • The trees are white with dust, that o'er their sleep
    Wave their broad curtains in the south-wind's breath,
    While underneath such leafy tents they keep
    The long, mysterious Exodus of Death.
  • A boy's will is the wind's will,
    And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.
  • A Lady with a Lamp shall stand
    In the great history of the land,
    A noble type of good,
    Heroic womanhood.
  • Ye are better than all the ballads
    That ever were sung or said;
    For ye are living poems,
    And all the rest are dead.
  • Between the dark and the daylight,
    When the night is beginning to lower,
    Comes a pause in the day's occupation,
    That is known as the Children's Hour.
  • I hear in the chamber above me
    The patter of little feet,
    The sound of a door that is opened,
    And voices soft and sweet.
    • The Children's Hour, St. 2
  • Time has laid his hand
    Upon my heart, gently, not smiting it,
    But as a harper lays his open palm
    Upon his harp, to deaden its vibrations.
  • The grave itself is but a covered bridge,
    Leading from light to light, through a brief darkness!
    • The Golden Legend, Pt. V, A Covered Bridge at Lucerne
  • Turn, turn, my wheel! All things must change
    To something new, to something strange;
    Nothing that is can pause or stay;
    The moon will wax, the moon will wane,
    The mist and cloud will turn to rain,
    The rain to mist and cloud again,
    To-morrow be to-day.
  • Art is the child of Nature; yes,
    Her darling child, in whom we trace
    The features of the mother's face,
    Her aspect and her attitude,
    All her majestic loveliness
    Chastened and softened and subdued
    Into a more attractive grace,
    And with a human sense imbued.
    He is the greatest artist, then,
    Whether of pencil or of pen,
    Who follows Nature.
    • Kéramo, st. 29
  • Three Silences there are: the first of speech,
    The second of desire, the third of thought;
    This is the lore a Spanish monk, distraught
    With dreams and visions, was the first to teach.
  • The holiest of all holidays are those
    Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
    The secret anniversaries of the heart,
    When the full river of feeling overflows.
  • In the long, sleepless watches of the night,
    A gentle face — the face of one long dead —
    Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
    The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
  • Great is the art of beginning, but greater the art is of ending;
    Many a poem is marred by a superfluous verse.
  • There was a little girl,
    Who had a little curl,
    Right in the middle of her forehead.
    When she was good,
    She was very good indeed,
    But when she was bad she was horrid.
  • O Bells of San Blas in vain
    Ye call back the Past again;
    The Past is deaf to your prayer!
    Out of the shadows of night
    The world rolls into light;
    It is daybreak everywhere.

A Psalm of Life (1839)

  • 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.
    • St. 1
  • 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.
    • St. 2
  • Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
    Is our destined end or way;
    But to act, that each to-morrow
    Finds us further than to-day.
    • St. 3
  • 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.
    • St. 4
  • 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!
    • St. 6
  • Lives of great men all remind us
    We can make our lives sublime,
    And departing, leave behind us
    Footprints on the sands of time.
    • St. 7
  • Let us, then, be up and doing.
    With a heart for any fate;
    Still achieving, still pursuing,
    Learn to labor and to wait.
    • St. 9

The Wreck of the Hesperus (1842)

  • It was the schooner Hesperus,
    That sailed the wintry sea;
    And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
    To bear him company.
    • St. 1
  • "O father! I see a gleaming light.
    Oh say, what may it be?"
    But the father answered never a word,
    A frozen corpse was he.
    • St. 12
  • Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
    In the midnight and the snow!
    Christ save us all from a death like this,
    On the reef of Norman's Woe!
    • St. 22

The Village Blacksmith (1842)

  • Under a spreading chestnut-tree
    The village smithy stands;
    The smith, a mighty man is he,
    With large and sinewy hands;
    And the muscles of his brawny arms
    Are strong as iron bands.
    • St. 1
  • His brow is wet with honest sweat,
    He earns whate'er he can,
    And looks the whole world in the face,
    For he owes not any man.
    • St. 2
  • Each morning sees some task begin,
    Each evening sees it close
    Something attempted, something done,
    Has earned a night's repose.
    • St. 7

The Day is Done (1845)

  • The day is done, and the darkness
    Falls from the wings of Night,
    As a feather is wafted downward
    From an eagle in his flight.
    • St. 1
  • A feeling of sadness and longing,
    That is not akin to pain,
    And resembles sorrow only
    As the mist resembles the rain.
    • St. 3
  • Come, read to me some poem,
    Some simple and heartfelt lay,
    That shall soothe this restless feeling,
    And banish the thoughts of day.
    • St. 4
  • Not from the grand old masters,
    Not from the bards sublime,
    Whose distant footsteps echo
    Through the corridors of Time.
    • St. 5
  • Read from some humbler poet,
    Whose songs gushed from his heart,
    As showers from the clouds of summer,
    Or tears from the eyelids start.
    • St. 7
  • And the night shall be filled with music,
    And the cares, that infest the day,
    Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
    And as silently steal away.
    • St. 11

Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie (1847)

  • This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
    Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
    Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
    Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
    • Prelude
  • Alike were they free from
    Fear, that reigns with the tyrant, and envy, the vice of republics.
    Neither locks had they to their doors, nor bars to their windows;
    But their dwellings were open as day and the hearts of their owners;
    There the richest was poor, and the poorest lived in abundance.
    • Pt. I, sec. 1
  • When she had passed, it seemed like the ceasing of exquisite music.
    • Pt. I, sec. 1
  • Silently one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
    Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.
    • Pt. I, sec. 3
  • Talk not of wasted affection, affection never was wasted;
    If it enrich not the heart of another, its waters, returning
    Back to their springs, like the rain, shall fill them full of refreshment;
    That which the fountain sends forth returns again to the fountain.
    • Pt. II, sec. 1

The Building of the Ship (1849)

  • Build me straight, O worthy Master!
    Stanch and strong, a goodly vessel,
    That shall laugh at all disaster,
    And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!
    • l. 1-4
  • And see! she stirs!
    She starts,—she moves,—she seems to feel
    The thrill of life along her keel,
    And, spurning with her foot the ground,
    With one exulting, joyous bound,
    She leaps into the ocean's arms!
    • l. 349-354
  • Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
    Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
    Humanity with all its fears,
    With all the hopes of future years,
    Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
    • l. 378-382
  • Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee,
    Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,
    Our faith triumphant o'er our fears,
    Are all with thee,—are all with thee!
    • l. 396-399

The Song of Hiawatha (1855)

  • All your strength is in your union,
    All your danger is in discord;
    Therefore be at peace henceforward,
    And as brothers live together.
    • Pt. I, The Peace-Pipe, st. 13
  • By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
    By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
    Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
    Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
    • Pt. III, Hiawatha’s Childhood, st. 8
  • From the water-fall he named her,
    Minnehaha, Laughing Water.
    • Pt. IV, Hiawatha and Mudjekeewis, st. 33
  • As unto the bow the cord is,
    So unto the man is woman;
    Though she bends him, she obeys him,
    Though she draws him, yet she follows,
    Useless each without the other!
    • Pt. X, Hiawatha's Wooing, st. 1
  • By the shore of Gitche Gumee,
    By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
    At the doorway of his wigwam,
    In the pleasant Summer morning,
    Hiawatha stood and waited.
    • Pt. XXII, Hiawatha's Departure, st. 1
  • Thus departed Hiawatha,
    Hiawatha the Beloved,
    In the glory of the sunset,
    In the purple mists of evening,
    To the regions of the home-wind,
    Of the Northwest-Wind, Keewaydin,
    To the Islands of the Blessed,
    To the Kingdom of Ponemah,
    To the Land of the Hereafter!
    • Pt. XXII, Hiawatha's Departure, st. 29

Tales of a Wayside Inn (1863-1874)

  • Listen, my children, and you shall hear
    Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
    On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
    Hardly a man is now alive
    Who remembers that famous day and year.
  • One, if by land, and two, if by sea;
    And I on the opposite shore will be,
    Ready to ride and spread the alarm
    Through every Middlesex village and farm
    For the country folk to be up and to arm.
  • And yet, through the gloom and the light,
    The fate of a nation was riding that night.
  • His form was ponderous, and his step was slow;
    There never was so wise a man before;
    He seemed the incarnate "Well, I told you so!"
    • Pt. I, The Poet's Tale: The Birds of Killingworth, st. 9
  • Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing,
    Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;
    So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another,
    Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.
    • Pt. III, The Theologian's Tale: Elizabeth, sec. IV
  • And suddenly through the drifting brume
    The blare of the horns began to ring.
    • King Olaf's War-Horns, st. 2

Morituri Salutamus (1875)

  • Let him not boast who puts his armor on
    As he who puts it off, the battle done.
    Study yourselves; and most of all note well
    Wherein kind Nature meant you to excel.
    Not every blossom ripens into fruit.
    • St. 11
  • And now, my classmates; ye remaining few
    That number not the half of those we knew,
    Ye, against whose familiar names not yet
    The fatal asterisk of death is set,
    Ye I salute!
    • St. 13
  • The scholar and the world! The endless strife,
    The discord in the harmonies of life!
    The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
    And all the sweet serenity of books;
    The market-place, the eager love of gain,
    Whose aim is vanity, and whose end is pain!
    • St. 23
  • Ah, nothing is too late
    Till the tired heart shall cease to palpitate.
    • St. 24
  • For age is opportunity no less
    Than youth itself, though in another dress,
    And as the evening twilight fades away
    The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
    • St. 25

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  • Know how sublime a thing it is
    To suffer and be strong.
  • One half of the world must sweat and groan that the other half may dream.
  • Sometimes we may learn more from a man's errors than from his virtues.
  • The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, and all the sweet serenity of books
  • There's nothing in this world so sweet as love, and next to love the sweetest thing is hate.
  • Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;
    Though with patience he stands waiting, with exactness grinds he all.
  • We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.

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