‘The Singers’, Oxyrhynchus hymn, and ‘A Psalm of Life’

The Singers

A poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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.

The first, a youth, with soul of fire,
Held in his hand a golden lyre;
Through groves he wandered, and by streams,
Playing the music of our dreams.

The second, with a bearded face,
Stood singing in the market-place,
And stirred with accents deep and loud
The hearts of all the listening crowd.

A gray old man, the third and last,
Sang in cathedrals dim and vast,
While the majestic organ rolled
Contrition from its mouths of gold.

And those who heard the Singers three
Disputed which the best might be;
For still their music seemed to start
Discordant echoes in each heart,

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.

“These are the three great chords of might,
And he whose ear is tuned aright
Will hear no discord in the three,
But the most perfect harmony.

*The Oxyrhynchus Hymn is the oldest known music notation and lyrics of a Christian hymn, dating from the second or third century. The English lyrics are roughly translated as,

.. Let it be silent
Let the Luminous stars
not shine,
Let the winds (?) and all the noisy rivers die down;
And as we hymn the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Let all the powers add “Amen Amen”
Empire, praise always, and glory to God,
The sole giver of
good things,
Amen Amen

A Psalm of Life

A poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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.