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By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Half of my life is gone, and I have let

   The years slip from me and have not fulfilled

   The aspiration of my youth, to build

   Some tower of song with lofty parapet.

Not indolence, nor pleasure, nor the fret

   Of restless passions that would not be stilled,

   But sorrow, and a care that almost killed,

   Kept me from what I may accomplish yet;

Though, half-way up the hill, I see the Past

   Lying beneath me with its sounds and sights,—

   A city in the twilight dim and vast,

With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights,—

   And hear above me on the autumnal blast

   The cataract of Death far thundering from the heights.


Source: Longfellow: Poems and Other Writings (The Library of America, 2000)

  • Living

Poet Bio

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Born in Portland, Maine, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow displayed an interest in linguistics at an early age, eventually teaching modern languages at Harvard. His idealistic poetry struck a chord with a young country sharply divided over slavery. Poems such as the narrative Evangeline and “Paul Revere’s Ride” made Longfellow the most popular 19th-century American poet. See More By This Poet

More By This Poet

The Light of Stars

The night is come, but not too soon;
  And sinking silently,
All silently, the little moon
  Drops down behind the sky.

There is no light in earth or heaven
  But the cold light of stars;
And the first watch of night is given
  To the red planet Mars. 

Is it the tender star of love?
  The star of love and dreams?
O no! from that blue tent above,
  A hero's armor gleams. 

And earnest thoughts within me rise,
  When I behold afar,
Suspended in the evening skies,
  The shield of that red star. 

O star of strength! I see thee stand
  And smile upon my pain;
Thou beckonest with thy mailèd hand,
  And I am strong again. 

Within my breast there is no light
  But the cold light of stars;
I give the first watch of the night
  To the red planet Mars. 

The star of the unconquered will,
  He rises in my breast,
Serene, and resolute, and still,
  And calm, and self-possessed. 

And thou, too, whosoe'er thou art,
  That readest this brief psalm,
As one by one thy hopes depart,
  Be resolute and calm. 

O fear not in a world like this,
  And thou shalt know erelong,
Know how sublime a thing it is
  To suffer and be strong.

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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