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A Psalm of Life

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Alexa Palumbo

on 6 February 2014

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Transcript of A Psalm of Life

An in-depth poem analysis

Title Analysis
Literary Devices
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 labor and to wait.
The title "A Psalm of Life" has no hidden message, the poem itself is simply a cautionary and enthusiastic tale advising you how to live life to the fullest.
Author Background
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was born in Portland, Maine. He studied at Bowdoin College. After spending time in Europe, he became a professor at Bowdoin. Later, Longfellow taught at Harvard College. Longfellow wrote from the late 1830s until his death in 1882. He became a known literary figure nationally by the 1850's. Longfellow wrote in a period known as Romanticism: a 19th-century American movement in which poetry and philosophy was concerned with placing high concern on emotion and embraced the exotic and unfamiliar.
There are many literary devices used in "A Psalm of Life", most notably the imagery used in almost every stanza. Longfellow makes use of similes as well, in these lines: "Still, like muffled drums, are beating... Be not like dumb, driven cattle!" Alliteration is also used in the previous line as Longfellow repeats the "duh" sound and in the lines "In the world's broad field of battle, in the bivouac of Life...". Metaphor is used in the line "Footprints on the sands of time..." and the rhyme scheme is A-B-A-B, visible in every stanza and verse.
The point of view of the poem is

The attitude of the poem is optimistic, encouraging, and optimistic.
The author of the poem used shifts very subtly with different word choices and going from happy to foreboding within moments. This is apparent in lines such as:
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.
The themes of the poem are to live life in the moment, to be smart, and to be courageous.

"In the Poem, "A Psalm of Life," What Literary Devices Are Used?" Yahoo! Answers. Yahoo!, n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2014.
Do not tell me that life is hopeless,
for the person that does nothing is dead,
and you have much to discover.

Life is an amazing thing, and to die is not it's goal,
Life is art and is a cycle.

Happiness and sorrow; we do not strive for.
We should live life in the moment,
and be ambitious in our endeavors.

Art is forever, Our hearts beat still towards death,
During your time on Earth choose your battles wisely.
Pave your own path.

Learn to labor, be courageous, and to be patient.
Full transcript