Tag Archive | henry wadsworth longfellow

Footsteps of Angels

A dear friend of mine passed away on New Year’s Eve. I am posting Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, Footsteps of Angels, in her honor.


By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


When the hours of day are numbered,

  And the voices of the night

Wake the better soul that slumbered

  To a holy, calm delight, —

Ere the evening lamps are lighted,

  And, like phantoms grim and tall,

Shadows from the fitful firelight

  Dance upon the parlor wall;

Then, the forms of the departed

  Enter at the open door, —

The beloved ones, the true-hearted,

  Come to visit me once more:

He, the young and strong, who cherished

  Noble longings for the strife,

By the roadside fell and perished,

  Weary with the march of life!

They, the holy ones and weakly,

  Who the cross of suffering bore,

Folded their pale hands so meekly,

  Spake with us on earth no more!

And with them the being beauteous

  Who unto my youth was given,

More than all things else to love me,

  And is now a saint in heaven.

With a slow and noiseless footstep

  Comes that messenger divine,

Takes the vacant chair beside me,

  Lays her gentle hand in mine;

And she sits and gazes at me

  With those deep and tender eyes,

Like the stars, so still and saint-like,

  Looking downward from the skies.

Uttered not, yet comprehended,

  Is the spirit’s voiceless prayer,

Soft rebukes, in blessings ended,

  Breathing from her lips of air.

O, though oft depressed and lonely,

  All my fears are laid aside

If I but remember only

  Such as these have lived and died!

A Psalm of Life


By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist


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.

An April Day


By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When the warm sun, that brings
Seed-time and harvest, has returned again,
‘Tis sweet to visit the still wood, where springs
The first flower of the plain.

I love the season well,
When forest glades are teeming with bright forms,
Nor dark and many-folded clouds foretell
The coming-on of storms.

From the earth’s loosened mould
The sapling draws its sustenance, and thrives;
Though stricken to the heart with winter’s cold,
The drooping tree revives.

The softly-warbled song
Comes from the pleasant woods, and colored wings
Glance quick in the bright sun, that moves along
The forest openings.

When the bright sunset fills
The silver woods with light, the green slope throws
Its shadows in the hollows of the hills,
And wide the upland glows.

And when the eve is born,
In the blue lake the sky, o’er-reaching far,
Is hollowed out and the moon dips her horn,
And twinkles many a star.

Inverted in the tide
Stand the gray rocks, and trembling shadows throw,
And the fair trees look over, side by side,
And see themselves below.

Sweet April! many a thought
Is wedded unto thee, as hearts are wed;
Nor shall they fail, till, to its autumn brought,
Life’s golden fruit is shed.

The Day Is Done


By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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.

I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o’er me
That my soul cannot resist:

A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.

Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.

For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life’s endless toil and endeavor;
And to-night I long for rest.

Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.

Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.

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.

Birds of Passage


By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Black shadows fall
From the lindens tall,
That lift aloft their massive wall
Against the southern sky;

And from the realms
Of the shadowy elms
A tide-like darkness overwhelms
The fields that round us lie.

But the night is fair,
And everywhere
A warm, soft vapor fills the air,
And distant sounds seem near,

And above, in the light
Of the star-lit night,
Swift birds of passage wing their flight
Through the dewy atmosphere.

I hear the beat
Of their pinions fleet,
As from the land of snow and sleet
They seek a southern lea.

I hear the cry
Of their voices high
Falling dreamily through the sky,
But their forms I cannot see.

O, say not so!
Those sounds that flow
In murmurs of delight and woe
Come not from wings of birds.

They are the throngs
Of the poet’s songs,
Murmurs of pleasures, and pains, and wrongs,
The sound of winged words.

This is the cry
Of souls, that high
On toiling, beating pinions, fly,
Seeking a warmer clime,

From their distant flight
Through realms of light
It falls into our world of night,
With the murmuring sound of rhyme.