A Psalm of Life

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"Footprints on the sands of time"

"A Psalm of Life" is a poem written by American writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Composition and publication history[edit]

Longfellow wrote the poem shortly after completing lectures on German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and was heavily inspired by him. He was also inspired to write it by a heartfelt conversation he had with friend and fellow professor at Harvard University Cornelius Conway Felton; the two had spent an evening "talking of matters, which lie near one's soul:–and how to bear one's self doughtily in Life's battle: and make the best of things".[1] The next day, he wrote "A Psalm of Life".

The poem was first published in The Knickerbocker attributed only to "L." Longfellow was promised five dollars for its publication, though he never received payment.[2] "A Psalm of Life" and other early poems by Longfellow, including "The Village Blacksmith" and "The Wreck of the Hesperus", were collected and published as Voices of the Night in 1839.[3] This volume sold for 75 cents.[4]

In the summer of 1838, Longfellow wrote "The Light of Stars", a poem which he called "A Second Psalm of Life".[5]


  1. ^ Thompson, Lawrance. Young Longfellow (1807–1843). New York: The Macmillan Company,1938: 267.
  2. ^ Cody, Sherwin. Four American Poets: William Cullen Bryant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes; a Book for Young Americans. New York: Werner School Book Company, 1899: 106–107. Accessed August 12, 2008
  3. ^ Calhoun, Charles C. Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life. Boston: Beacon Press, 2004: 137–139. ISBN 0-8070-7026-2.
  4. ^ Irmscher, Christoph. Longfellow Redux. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2006: 54. ISBN 978-0-252-07586-5
  5. ^ Thompson, Lawrance. Young Longfellow (1807–1843). New York: The Macmillan Company,1938: 270.

External links[edit]