Monday, April 7, 2008

Longfellow's "A Psalm of Life"

It never ceases to surprise me how one little thing can completely set the tone for the rest of the day. In addition to the fact that Opening Day is tomorrow at Fenway, which makes the T an even more trying experience than usual, April just seems to be a bad month for people. I have several colleagues at school who are having an unusually bad day, so I figured that a little moral sustenance (in poetry form) might be in order.

Today's poem is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "A Psalm of Life." Although many in academia now scorn Longfellow's poetry as being too didactic, precise, and artificial, he was considered quite a celebrity in his time. The founding member of the Fireside Poets, his work was very popular in the United States. He was also the first American poet to have the distinction of being buried in Poet's Corner in London's Westminster's Abbey.

When I was in high school, this was one of my favorite poems. In college, I had a professor who made fun of Longfellow on a regular basis (I still can't read the first few lines of "The Song of Hiawatha" without laughing); I also became considerably more cynical. As a result, I distanced myself from all things Longfellow. Although I haven't completely reacquainted myself with all of his works, I still find myself drawn to "A Psalm of Life." It is still one of the best poems to help makes things look a little brighter during times of spiritual or mental exhaustion.