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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (27 February 1807 – 24 March 1882) was an American poet and one of the five members of the group known as the Fireside Poets.
Born: February 27th, 1807
Died: March 24th, 1882
Quotes: 167 sourced quotes total
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But as he warmed and glowed, in his simple and eloquent language, Quite forgetful of self, and full of the praise of his rival, Archly the maiden smiled, and, with eyes over-running with laughter, Said, in a tremulous voice, "Why don't you speak for yourself, John?"
Let us, then, be up and doing. With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait.
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.
"O father! I see a gleaming light. Oh say, what may it be?" But the father answered never a word, A frozen corpse was he.
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.
"Let us build such a church, that those who come after us shall take us for madmen," said the old canon of Seville, when the great cathedral was planned. Perhaps through every mind passes some such thought, when it first entertains the design of a great and seemingly impossible action, the end of which it dimly foresees. This divine madness enters more or less into all our noblest undertakings.
Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime, And departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time;
I shot an arrow into the air, It fell to earth, I knew not where.
We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.
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.
Listen, my children, and you shall hear Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five; Hardly a man is now alive Who remembers that famous day and year.
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!
The heights by great men reached and kept Were not attained by sudden flight, But they, while their companions slept, Were toiling upward in the night.
And the song, from beginning to end, I found again in the heart of a friend.
His form was ponderous, and his step was slow; There never was so wise a man before; He seemed the incarnate "Well, I told you so!"
Never here, forever there, Where all parting, pain, and care, And death, and time shall disappear,— Forever there, but never here! The horologe of Eternity Sayeth this incessantly,— "Forever — never! Never — forever!"
If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.
If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.
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.
One, if by land, and two, if by sea; And I on the opposite shore will be, Ready to ride and spread the alarm Through every Middlesex village and farm For the country folk to be up and to arm.
Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.
Silently one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven, Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.
A boy's will is the wind's will, And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.
Thy fate is the common fate of all; Into each life some rain must fall, Some days must be dark and dreary.
A feeling of sadness and longing, That is not akin to pain, And resembles sorrow only As the mist resembles the rain.
A torn jacket is soon mended; but hard words bruise the heart of a child.
And yet, through the gloom and the light, The fate of a nation was riding that night.
There is no Death! What seems so is transition; This life of mortal breath Is but a suburb of the life elysian, Whose portal we call Death.
For age is opportunity no less Than youth itself, though in another dress, And as the evening twilight fades away The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
Look not mournfully into the Past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the Present. It is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy Future, without fear, and with a manly heart.
Each morning sees some task begin, Each evening sees it close Something attempted, something done, Has earned a night's repose.
Not from the grand old masters, Not from the bards sublime, Whose distant footsteps echo Through the corridors of Time.
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.
In the long, sleepless watches of the night, A gentle face — the face of one long dead — Looks at me from the wall, where round its head The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another, Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.
When she had passed, it seemed like the ceasing of exquisite music.
By the shores of Gitche Gumee, By the shining Big-Sea-Water, Stood the wigwam of Nokomis, Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
His brow is wet with honest sweat, He earns whate'er he can, And looks the whole world in the face, For he owes not any man.
There is a Reaper, whose name is Death, And, with his sickle keen, He reaps the bearded grain at a breath, And the flowers that grow between.
My soul is full of longing For the secret of the Sea, And the heart of the great ocean Sends a thrilling pulse through me.
Under a spreading chestnut-tree The village smithy stands; The smith, a mighty man is he, With large and sinewy hands; And the muscles of his brawny arms Are strong as iron bands.
All are architects of Fate, Working in these walls of Time.
Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience he stands waiting, with exactness grinds he all.
Come, read to me some poem, Some simple and heartfelt lay, That shall soothe this restless feeling, And banish the thoughts of day.
Read from some humbler poet, Whose songs gushed from his heart, As showers from the clouds of summer, Or tears from the eyelids start.
But the great Master said, "I see No best in kind, but in degree; I gave a various gift to each, To charm, to strengthen, and to teach.
Such was the wreck of the Hesperus, In the midnight and the snow! Christ save us all from a death like this, On the reef of Norman's Woe!
Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee, Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears, Our faith triumphant o'er our fears, Are all with thee,—are all with thee!
The leaves of memory seemed to make A mournful rustling in the dark.
There is no greater sorrow Than to be mindful of the happy time In misery.
For Time will teach thee soon the truth, There are no birds in last year's nest!
In the elder days of Art, Builders wrought with greatest care Each minute and unseen part; For the gods see everywhere.
A Lady with a Lamp shall stand In the great history of the land, A noble type of good, Heroic womanhood.
The shades of night were falling fast, As through an Alpine village passed A youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice, A banner with the strange device, Excelsior!
Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State! Sail on, O Union, strong and great! Humanity with all its fears, With all the hopes of future years, Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
He that respects himself is safe from others; he wears a coat of mail that none can pierce.
Nothing useless is, or low; Each thing in its place is best; And what seems but idle show Strengthens and supports the rest.
I hear in the chamber above me The patter of little feet, The sound of a door that is opened, And voices soft and sweet.
This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight, Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic, Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
The star of the unconquered will.
Sorrow and silence are strong, and patient endurance is godlike.
All your strength is in your union, All your danger is in discord; Therefore be at peace henceforward, And as brothers live together.
The prayer of Ajax was for light.
Into a world unknown,—the corner-stone of a nation.
All things come round to him who will but wait.
God had sifted three kingdoms to find the wheat for this planting.
Standing, with reluctant feet, Where the brook and river meet, Womanhood and childhood fleet!
No one is so accursed by fate, No one so utterly desolate, But some heart, though unknown, Responds unto his own.
This is the place. Stand still, my steed,— Let me review the scene, And summon from the shadowy past The forms that once have been.
I heard the trailing garments of the Night Sweep through her marble halls! I saw her sable skirts all fringed with light From the celestial walls!
As unto the bow the cord is, So unto the man is woman; Though she bends him, she obeys him, Though she draws him, yet she follows, Useless each without the other!
There was a little girl, Who had a little curl, Right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, She was very good indeed, But when she was bad she was horrid.
Oh the long and dreary Winter! Oh the cold and cruel Winter!
Ah, nothing is too late Till the tired heart shall cease to palpitate.
For his heart was in his work, and the heart Giveth grace unto every Art.
It was the schooner Hesperus, That sailed the wintry sea; And the skipper had taken his little daughter, To bear him company.
And as she looked around, she saw how Death the consoler, Laying his hand upon many a heart, had healed it forever.
There is no flock, however watched and tended, But one dead lamb is there! There is no fireside, howsoe'er defended, But has one vacant chair!
Time has laid his hand Upon my heart, gently, not smiting it, But as a harper lays his open palm Upon his harp, to deaden its vibrations.
O thou child of many prayers! Life hath quicksands; life hath snares!
He speaketh not; and yet there lies A conversation in his eyes.
Safe from temptation, safe from sin's pollution, She lives whom we call dead.
The holiest of all holidays are those Kept by ourselves in silence and apart; The secret anniversaries of the heart, When the full river of feeling overflows.
God sent his Singers upon earth With songs of sadness and of mirth, That they might touch the hearts of men, And bring them back to heaven again.
I like that ancient Saxon phrase, which calls The burial-ground God's-Acre! It is just; It consecrates each grave within its walls, And breathes a benison o'er the sleeping dust.
Big words do not smite like war-clubs, Boastful breath is not a bow-string, Taunts are not so sharp as arrows, Deeds are better things than words are, Actions mightier than boastings.
It is the fate of a woman Long to be patient and silent, to wait like a ghost that is speechless, Till some questioning voice dissolves the spell of its silence.
Talk not of wasted affection, affection never was wasted; If it enrich not the heart of another, its waters, returning Back to their springs, like the rain, shall fill them full of refreshment; That which the fountain sends forth returns again to the fountain.
Books are sepulchres of thought.
Look, then, into thine heart, and write!
She floats upon the river of his thoughts.
But oftentimes celestial benedictions Assume this dark disguise.
From the water-fall he named her, Minnehaha, Laughing Water.
He is a little chimney and heated hot in a moment.
The hooded clouds, like friars, Tell their beads in drops of rain.
The grave itself is but a covered bridge, Leading from light to light, through a brief darkness!
Build me straight, O worthy Master! Stanch and strong, a goodly vessel, That shall laugh at all disaster, And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!
Who ne'er his bread in sorrow ate, Who ne'er the mournful midnight hours Weeping upon his bed has sate, He knows you not, ye Heavenly Powers.
Spake full well, in language quaint and olden, One who dwelleth by the castled Rhine, When he called the flowers, so blue and golden, Stars, that in earth's firmament do shine.
And see! she stirs! She starts,—she moves,—she seems to feel The thrill of life along her keel, And, spurning with her foot the ground, With one exulting, joyous bound, She leaps into the ocean's arms!
Thus, seamed with many scars Bursting these prison bars, Up to its native stars My soul ascended! There from the flowing bowl Deep drinks the warrior's soul, Skoal! to the Northland! skoal! —Thus the tale ended.
Thus departed Hiawatha, Hiawatha the Beloved, In the glory of the sunset, In the purple mists of evening, To the regions of the home-wind, Of the Northwest-Wind, Keewaydin, To the Islands of the Blessed, To the Kingdom of Ponemah, To the Land of the Hereafter!
Alas! it is not till time, with reckless hand, has torn out half the leaves from the Book of Human Life to light the fires of passion with from day to day, that man begins to see that the leaves which remain are few in number.
Alike were they free from Fear, that reigns with the tyrant, and envy, the vice of republics. Neither locks had they to their doors, nor bars to their windows; But their dwellings were open as day and the hearts of their owners; There the richest was poor, and the poorest lived in abundance.
Hospitality sitting with Gladness.
Hold the fleet angel fast until he bless thee.
And in the wreck of noble lives Something immortal still survives.
Every guilty deed Holds in itself the seed Of retribution and undying pain.
What seem to us but sad, funereal tapers May be heaven's distant lamps.
The surest pledge of a deathless name Is the silent homage of thoughts unspoken.
A town that boasts inhabitants like me Can have no lack of good society.
Ye are better than all the ballads That ever were sung or said; For ye are living poems, And all the rest are dead.
By the shore of Gitche Gumee, By the shining Big-Sea-Water, At the doorway of his wigwam, In the pleasant Summer morning, Hiawatha stood and waited.
I know a maiden fair to see, Take care! She can both false and friendly be, Beware! Beware! Trust her not, She is fooling thee.
If the great Captain of Plymouth is so very eager to wed me, Why does he not come himself, and take the trouble to woo me? If I am not worth the wooing, I surely am not worth the winning!
Turn, turn, my wheel! All things must change To something new, to something strange; Nothing that is can pause or stay; The moon will wax, the moon will wane, The mist and cloud will turn to rain, The rain to mist and cloud again, To-morrow be to-day.
Much must he toil who serves the Immortal Gods.
He has singed the beard of the king of Spain.
With useless endeavour Forever, forever, Is Sisyphus rolling His stone up the mountain!
And suddenly through the drifting brume The blare of the horns began to ring.
The air is full of farewells to the dying, And mournings for the dead.
Every great poem is in itself limited by necessity, — but in its suggestions unlimited and infinite.
As turning the logs will make a dull fire burn, so change of studies a dull brain.
Stars of the summer night! Far in yon azure deeps, Hide, hide your golden light! She sleeps! My lady sleeps!
Where'er a noble deed is wrought, Where'er is spoken a noble thought, Our hearts in glad surprise To higher levels rise.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, Is our destined end or way; But to act, that each to-morrow Finds us further than to-day.
She knew the life-long martyrdom, The weariness, the endless pain Of waiting for some one to come Who nevermore would come again.
I stood on the bridge at midnight, As the clocks were striking the hour, And the moon rose o'er the city, Behind the dark church-tower.
Oh, fear not in a world like this, And thou shalt know erelong,— Know how sublime a thing it is To suffer and be strong.
O suffering, sad humanity! O ye afflicted ones, who lie Steeped to the lips in misery, Longing, yet afraid to die, Patient, though sorely tried!
What land is this? Yon pretty town Is Delft, with all its wares displayed: The pride, the market-place, the crown And centre of the Potter's trade.
Something the heart must have to cherish, Must love and joy and sorrow learn; Something with passion clasp, or perish And in itself to ashes burn.
Between the dark and the daylight, When the night is beginning to lower, Comes a pause in the day's occupation, That is known as the Children's Hour.
Build on, and make thy castles high and fair, Rising and reaching upward to the skies; Listen to voices in the upper air, Nor lose thy simple faith in mysteries.
The trees are white with dust, that o'er their sleep Wave their broad curtains in the south-wind's breath, While underneath such leafy tents they keep The long, mysterious Exodus of Death.
Love makes its record in deeper colors as we grow out of childhood into manhood; as the Emperors signed their names in green ink when under age, but when of age, in purple.
And now, my classmates; ye remaining few That number not the half of those we knew, Ye, against whose familiar names not yet The fatal asterisk of death is set, Ye I salute!
Were half the power that fills the world with terror, Were half the wealth bestowed on camps and courts, Given to redeem the human mind from error, There were no need of arsenals and forts.
Don Quixote thought he could have made beautiful bird-cages and toothpicks if his brain had not been so full of ideas of chivalry. Most people would succeed in small things, if they were not troubled with great ambitions.
Moons waxed and waned, the lilacs bloomed and died, In the broad river ebbed and flowed the tide, Ships went to sea, and ships came home from sea, And the slow years sailed by and ceased to be.
Thine was the prophet's vision, thine The exaltation, the divine Insanity of noble minds, That never falters nor abates, But labors and endures and waits, Till all that it foresees it finds Or what it can not find creates.
Let him not boast who puts his armor on As he who puts it off, the battle done. Study yourselves; and most of all note well Wherein kind Nature meant you to excel. Not every blossom ripens into fruit.
The scholar and the world! The endless strife, The discord in the harmonies of life! The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, And all the sweet serenity of books; The market-place, the eager love of gain, Whose aim is vanity, and whose end is pain!
Sail forth into the sea of life, O gentle, loving, trusting wife, And safe from all adversity Upon the bosom of that sea Thy comings and thy goings be! For gentleness and love and trust Prevail o'er angry wave and gust; And in the wreck of noble lives Something immortal still survives.
Art is the child of Nature; yes, Her darling child, in whom we trace The features of the mother's face, Her aspect and her attitude, All her majestic loveliness Chastened and softened and subdued Into a more attractive grace, And with a human sense imbued. He is the greatest artist, then, Whether of pencil or of pen, Who follows Nature.
The warriors that fought for their country, and bled, Have sunk to their rest; the damp earth is their bed; No stone tells the place where their ashes repose, Nor points out the spot from the graves of their foes.They died in their glory, surrounded by fame, And Victory's loud trump their death did proclaim; They are dead; but they live in each Patriot's breast, And their names are engraven on honor's bright crest.
The Laws of Nature are just, but terrible. There is no weak mercy in them. Cause and consequence are inseparable and inevitable. The elements have no forbearance. The fire burns, the water drowns, the air consumes, the earth buries. And perhaps it would be well for our race if the punishment of crimes against the Laws of Man were as inevitable as the punishment of crimes against the Laws of Nature, — were Man as unerring in his judgments as Nature.
Round about what is, lies a whole mysterious world of might be, — a psychological romance of possibilities and things that do not happen. By going out a few minutes sooner or later, by stopping to speak with a friend at a corner, by meeting this man or that, or by turning down this street instead of the other, we may let slip some great occasion of good, or avoid some impending evil, by which the whole current of our lives would have been changed. There is no possible solution to the dark enigma but the one word, "Providence".
Music is the universal language of mankind — poetry their universal pastime and delight.
Footprints, that perhaps another, Travelling o'er life's solemn main, A forlorn and shipwrecked brother, Seeing, shall take heart again.
We often excuse our own want of philanthropy by giving the name of fanaticism to the more ardent zeal of others.
Great is the art of beginning, but greater the art is of ending; Many a poem is marred by a superfluous verse.
Stronger than steel is the sword of the Spirit; Swifter than arrows, the light of the truth; Greater than anger is love that subdueth.
O holy trust! O endless sense of rest! Like the beloved John To lay his head upon the Saviour's breast, And thus to journey on!
St. Augustine! well hast thou said, That of our vices we can frame A ladder, if we will but tread Beneath our feet each deed of shame!
The tragic element in poetry is like Saturn in alchemy, — the Malevolent, the Destroyer of Nature ; but without it no true Aurum Potabile, or Elixir of Life, can be made.
Three Silences there are: the first of speech, The second of desire, the third of thought; This is the lore a Spanish monk, distraught With dreams and visions, was the first to teach.
The first pressure of sorrow crushes out from our hearts the best wine; afterwards the constant weight of it brings forth bitterness, — the taste and stain from the lees of the vat.
O Bells of San Blas in vain Ye call back the Past again; The Past is deaf to your prayer! Out of the shadows of night The world rolls into light; It is daybreak everywhere.
Doubtless criticism was originally benignant, pointing out the beauties of a work, rather than its defects. The passions of men have made it malignant, as the bad heart of Procrustes turned the bed, the symbol of repose, into an instrument of torture.
I am more afraid of deserving criticism than of receiving it. I stand in awe of my own opinion. The secret demerits of which we alone, perhaps, are conscious, are often more difficult to bear than those which have been publicly censured in us, and thus in some degree atoned for.
I feel a kind of reverence for the first books of young authors. There is so much aspiration in them, so much audacious hope and trembling fear, so much of the heart's history, that all errors and short-comings are for a while lost sight of in the amiable self-assertion of youth.
When we reflect that all the aspects of Nature, all the emotions of the soul, and all the events of life, have been the subjects of poetry for hundreds and thousands of years, we can hardly wonder that there should be so many resemblances and coincidences of expression among poets, but rather that they are not more numerous and more striking.
Authors have a greater right than any copyright, though it is generally unacknowledged or disregarded. They have a right to the reader's civility. There are favorable hours for reading a book, as for writing it, and to these the author has a claim. Yet many people think that when they buy a book they buy with it the right to abuse the author.
"Ah! this beautiful world!" said Flemming, with a smile. "Indeed, I know not what to think of it. Sometimes it is all gladness and sunshine, and Heaven itself lies not far off. And then it changes suddenly; and is dark and sorrowful, and clouds shut out the sky. In the lives of the saddest of us, there are bright days like this, when we feel as if we could take the great world in our arms and kiss it. Then come the gloomy hours, when the fire will neither burn on our hearths nor in our hearts; and all without and within is dismal, cold, and dark. Believe me, every heart has its secret sorrows, which the world knows not, and oftentimes we call a man cold, when he is only sad."
Ah, how wonderful is the advent of spring! — the great annual miracle of the blossoming of Aaron's rod, repeated on myriads and myriads of branches! — the gentle progression and growth of herbs, flowers, trees, — gentle and yet irrepressible, — which no force can stay, no violence restrain, like love, that wins its way and cannot be withstood by any human power, because itself is divine power. If spring came but once in a century, instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake, and not in silence, what wonder and expectation there would be in all hearts to behold the miraculous change! But now the silent succession suggests nothing but necessity. To most men only the cessation of the miracle would be miraculous and the perpetual exercise of God's power seems less wonderful than its withdrawal would be.
I think I have proved, by profound researches, The error of all those doctrines so vicious Of the old Areopagite Dyonisius, That are making such terrible work in the churches, By Michael the Stammerer sent from the East, And done into Latin by that Scottish beast, Erigena Johannes, who dares to maintain, In the face of the truth, the error infernal, That the universe is and must be eternal; At first laying down, as a fact fundamental, That nothing with God can be accidental; Then asserting that God before the creation Could not have existed, because it is plain That, had he existed, he would have created; Which is begging the question that should be debated, And moveth me less to anger than laughter. All nature, he holds, is a respiration Of the Spirit of God, who, in breathing hereafter Will inhale it into his bosom again, So that nothing but God alone will remain.