A Psalm of Life. Such a worthless life misguides other human beings. He kept the poem in manuscript for some time, not showing it to anyone, it being a voice from my inmost heart, he said, and expressing my feelings at a time when I was rallying from the depression of disappointment. Throughout the poem, the first and third lines of each stanza generally have eight syllables, but the second and fourth have only seven: they are caTatectic. And to Actact in the living Present!
In this conceit, the sailor represents any discouraged or lonely individual who receives encouragement from the memory of the good deeds of others. In Holland, he suffered two losses: the miscarriage of his first child and, shortly thereafter, the death of his wife. The poet begins the poem by asking us not to tell him in sorrowful verses that life is an empty, meaningless dream. In effect, Longfellow had brought the wisdom of many ages and nations into focus in shaping a personal philosophy. People are not great simply because they do great things, but because they maintained enough courage or confidence to act. Gioia argues that A Psalm of Life has remained in favor with popular (as opposed to scholarly) audiences precisely because of its obvious moral lessons. It is written in an abab pattern and has a trochaic meter. Art is long, and Time is fleeting, And our hearts, though stout and brave, Still, like muffled drums, are beating 15 Funeral marches to the grave.