Poetry That Inspired People Around the World Poetry That Inspired People Around the World
28 November 2022

Poetry That Inspired People Around the World

Written by: Nohemi Colin

The past two weeks I’ve been working on my second StoryMap project showcasing items collected by the Longfellow family’s during their international travels.

I searched a catalog of over 50 items that came from countries around the world and eventually made their way to Longfellow's home. Some items were also mentioned in the family’s travel journals which helps us learn more about when and where they were collected.

The catalog also includes items that were sent to Henry Longfellow by his international admirers. My favorite item is of an 1865 Chinese folding fan with calligraphy of Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life” in Chinese.

A Psalm of Life


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.


This also happens to be one of my favorite poems of his, because he writes about life being full of possibilities and tells readers to make the most out of their time and work. This optimistic view of life has resonated with many and continues to impact readers over a century later. He was also quoted stating, “when a great man dies, for years the light he leaves behind his, lies on the paths of men”. Through these gifts and the preservation of his home in Cambridge, we can see that Henry Longfellow’s writings have made a lasting impact that have touched the lives of many around the world.

Agency: National Park Service

Program: Latino Heritage Internship Program (LHIP)

Location: Longfellow House

MANO Project
is an initiative of Hispanic 
Access Foundation.

P: (202) 640-4342