Footprints in the Sands of Time

A busy day – and a beautiful one – and I’m off to a posh do this evening, so I just have time for a brief contribution. I thought I’d share these few verses from the inspirational poem A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I hope Tom Shanks reads them…

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.

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!

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

and here they are, read by the late great Paul Scofield:


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10 Responses to “Footprints in the Sands of Time”

  1. Tom Shanks Says:

    Yes I could agree with all of this – Longfellow seems to be saying that although flesh is mortal the soul is immortal. But life is still there to define our immortal legacy and we have to stand up for what we believe in, not follow the crowd.

    Further interpretation will have to await the running of the Grand National!

  2. telescoper Says:

    The most telling verse of the poem, for me at any rate, are those that follow the last one included in the post:

    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.

  3. Tom Shanks Says:

    There’s also the verse –

    “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!”

    Grand National didnt go too well – may avoid in future!

    • telescoper Says:

      Yes, it’s clearly written from the perspective of someone who has religious faith, but its message is still basically that life is there for living.

      I’m not religious myself, so what I think of as the “soul” of a person is probably different from what the poet had in mind. I think we do live on after we die, but only in the memory of other people and also through our deeds. That’s enough for me, actually…

    • “I think we do live on after we die, but only in the memory of other people and also through our deeds. That’s enough for me, actually…”

      In the words of the famous American philosopher Woody Allen: I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work, I want to achieve it through not dying. I don’t want to continue to live in the memories of other people, I want to continue to live in my apartment.

    • telescoper Says:

      Nobody really wants to live forever. You’d just get bored.

    • Simon Driver Says:

      Of invent something like life to alleviate the boredom.

  4. Tom Shanks Says:

    “I think we do live on after we die, but only in the memory of other people and also through our deeds.”

    This is pretty close to my position – am not a great soul man myself!

  5. Simon Driver Says:

    “I think we do live on after we die, but only in the memory of other people and through our deeds.”

    Not for very long though…really just a wee fading afterglow.

    However something which does give me comfort is that throughout our lives we create a permanent scratch in space-time. If one could freely travel in space and time one could go back and be witness to any previous life…perhaps in the future we will have space-time tourism and the witness to our deeds will be our descendents…

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