Archive for August 27th, 2006

A Psalm of Life – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

As I was meditating upon Psalm 90 today, my sons reminded me of this poem, a long-time favorite. The message of the poet seems to reverberate with the hopeful thought (also present in Psalm 90) that life, though short, may be intensely meaningful and significant. I copied and pasted the poem from the site Representative Poetry Online.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

A Psalm of Life
What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist.

1Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
2 Life is but an empty dream! —
3For the soul is dead that slumbers,
4 And things are not what they seem.

5Life is real! Life is earnest!
6 And the grave is not its goal;
7Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
8 Was not spoken of the soul.

9Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
10 Is our destined end or way;
11But to act, that each to-morrow
12 Find us farther than to-day.

13Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
14 And our hearts, though stout and brave,
15Still, like muffled drums, are beating
16 Funeral marches to the grave.

17In the world’s broad field of battle,
18 In the bivouac of Life,
19Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
20 Be a hero in the strife!

21Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
22 Let the dead Past bury its dead!
23Act, — act in the living Present!
24 Heart within, and God o’erhead!

25Lives of great men all remind us
26 We can make our lives sublime,
27And, departing, leave behind us
28 Footprints on the sands of time;

29Footprints, that perhaps another,
30 Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
31A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
32 Seeing, shall take heart again.

33Let us, then, be up and doing,
34 With a heart for any fate;
35Still achieving, still pursuing,
36 Learn to labor and to wait.
Online text copyright © 2005, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.Original text: The Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, with Bibliographical and Critical Notes, Riverside Edition (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin, 1890), I, 20-22. PS 2250 E90 Robarts Library.
First publication date: October 1838
Publication date note: Knickerbocker Magazine (Oct. 1838); Voices of the Night (1839)
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 4:2002/4/6Composition date: 20 July 1838
Rhyme: abab

Vacation Time at Dad and Mom Taron’s

Sunday, August 27th, 2006
A walkway in Grampa Taron's garden
A walkway in Grampa Taron’s hillside garden
Here I am sitting amidst Dad Taron’s beautiful bonsai creations

Some Thoughts After Reading Psalm 90

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

Psalm 90

verse 1 LORD, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.

verse 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

verse 3 Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.

verse 4 For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.

verse 5 Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.

verse 6 In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.

verse 7 For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.

verse 8 Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.

verse 9 For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.

verse 10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

verse 11 Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.

verse 12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. (Emphasis added.)
verse 13 Return, O LORD, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants.

verse 14 O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

verse 15 Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.

verse 16 Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.

verse 17 And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; year, the work of our hands estalish thou it. (Emphasis added.)

As I read this psalm, I am reminded that my life, my time upon earth is exceeding brief, even as a tale that is told (verse 9), as a night’s sleep (verse 5) or as grass that grows and withers in one day (verses 5 and 6).

Though my lifetime is short, still it must and may be spent to God’s glory. It is a deception to think that life’s brevity indicates that life then is futile or meaningless. The psalmist prays (and I am encouraged to pray with him), teach me how to spend these days in godly wisdom (verse 12). How I live my life is significant.

Firstly, I must seek unto the Father, through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ for cleansing from my sinfulness and my sins, that the beauty of the LORD my God might be upon me (verse 17). I Timothy 2:5,6 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

Secondly, I must energetically do the work which the Lord providentially sets before me (the work of my hands, not someone else’s work) (verse 17). For me, this is the work of a wife and mother. By God’s grace I seek to be wise or sober, to love my husband, to love my children, to be discreet, chaste, to be a keeper of the home, to be truly good, and to be obedient to my own husband, that the word of God be not blasphemed (Titus 2:4,5). Within my sphere of influence, I may be zealous for good works, to God’s glory (I Timothy 2:9-15, especially verse 10).

O let thy work and pow’r appear

thy servants’ face before;

And shew unto their children dear

thy glory evermore:

And let the beauty of the Lord

our God be us upon:

Our handy-works establish thou,

establish them each one.

(Metrical version of Psalm 90, verses 16 and 17)