'Life that shall send A challenge to its end, And when it comes, say, 'Welcome, friend.'
What the Heart of the Young Man Said
to the Psalmist
We will leave the woods and go to the seashore, where she sells sea shells.
Tell me not, in mournful numbers, Life is but an empty dream! For the soul is dead that slumbers, And things are not what
So, don't just tell me in your soulful songs ("numbers"), your soulful
poetry that life is only an empty dream, this Cartesian idea that everything
around us is an illusion. He says that there is more there than that, and
he is calling upon us to live. Again the transcendentalist thesis, you
have to live your life.
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.
So, the idea that you are just the clay of the earth, the ground, the dust,
and that's all you will be. But that is not the soul. There is more to
the human than the physical. Life itself is beyond that.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, Is our destin'd end or
way; But to act, that each to-morrow Find us farther than to-day.
All right, do you see the romantic side of that? We aren't just thinking.
We are acting. Will and energy combined. Also, the ancient or medieval
idea carpe diem (seize the day).
As I say, the idea comes down from the Medieval Period, you don't know
where you will be tomorrow or next week, so you have to live today. Life
passes by too fast to sit in neutral.
Art is long, and time is fleeting., And our hearts, though
stout and brave, Still, like muffled drums, are beating Funeral marches to the
Your heart is ticking off what's left of your life. Every time it beats,
that is one less heart beat that you have left. You're winding down like
a watch. This is our old friend memento mori
(reminder of death). Also, remember how fast time flies, and this is a related theme tempus
fugit (time flies), therefore carpe diem. If time
did not fly, if we had forever, then relax, what's the hurry. But if time
does fly, if we had only a limited amount of time to do things, then we
to them done while we can.
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!
Well, how do you become a hero? You become a hero by acting as your own
agent. Heroic action is your own action. Not just following along with
what everybody is doing. So, being a hero in the strife, he is calling
us to be heroic in our own lives.
Trust no Future, howev'er pleasant! Let the dead Past bury
its dead! Act--act in the glorious Present! Heart within, and God o'er
This says our primary focus is the present. That's all we have. Do you
have all those years you that have already lived? Do you have the future?
All we ever have is the present. Even if you lived thirty-thousand years,
throughout all that time all you would have would be the present moment.
The fact, past is beyond our reach; the future is not yet there. So, we
have to live now. Nevertheless, he does make allowances for a relationship
with the past and the future, which is a bit unusual.
Lives of great men all remind us We can make our
lives sublime, And, departing, leave behind us Footsteps on the sands
When we see others in the past, we are building on what they did, and then
we are leaving footsteps in the sands of time that somebody else may see
before they are obliterated by the tide.
Footsteps, that, perhaps another, Sailing o'er life's solemn
main, A forlorn and shipwreck'd brother, Seeing, shall take heart
Somebody lands on this desolate shore, and sees your footsteps they will
know that they are following in someone's trail, and be encouraged. Someone
was here. So, we do base something of our lives on the past. We do live
in such a way that we will leave something for the future, but the primary
focus is still the present.
Let us then be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Shall achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait.
We need to be moving on out, which I guess is what we will do now. . .