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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
   Finds 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.



Painful Pruning

John Henry Dearle for Morris & Co. - Tapestry- Greenery - Google Art Project

The Forest by William Morris


By woodman’s edge I faint and fail;
By craftsman’s edge I tell the tale.


High in the wood, high o’er the hall,
Aloft I rise when low I fall.


Unmoved I stand what wind may blow.
Swift, swift before the wind I go.

I was looking for a picture of a beautiful tapestry to illustrate the following poem.  I found the above image which features another poem (above) that is not entirely irrelevant to my point for this post.  Just like trees that are felled to make beautiful or useful items, and just like vines that are pruned so that they become more fruitful, we too undergo trials that feel catastrophic at times but are in fact beneficial in the grand scheme of things.  Here is the poem I originally intended to share with you.  (I’m not sure of the attribution so if you have a better idea then please let me know.)

The Divine Weaver by Kevin Mayhew

My life is but a weaving
between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colours
he worketh steadily.

Oftentimes he weaveth sorrow
and I, in foolish pride,
forget that he seeth the upper,
and I the underside.

Not till the loom is silent
and the shuttles cease to fly,
shall God unroll the canvas
and explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
in the weaver’s skilful hand
as the threads of gold and silver
in the pattern he has planned.

When and Why

Many thanks to SmileCalm who introduced me to this poem by Rabindranath Tagore.  It resonated strongly after my woodland discovery.  I hope you enjoy it too.

WHEN I bring you coloured toys, my child, I understand why there is such a play of colours on clouds, on water, and why flowers are painted in tints–when I give coloured toys to you, my child.

When I sing to make you dance, I truly know why there is music in leaves, and why waves send their chorus of voices to the heart of the listening earth–when I sing to make you dance.

When I bring sweet things to your greedy hands, I know why there is honey in the cup of the flower, and why fruits are secretly filled with sweet juice–when I bring sweet things to your greedy hands.

When I kiss your face to make you smile, my darling, I surely understand what pleasure streams from the sky in morning light, and what delight the summer breeze brings to my body–when I kiss you to make you smile.

Linux Update with Poetry Accompaniment

I’m now communicating to you without the help of MicroSoft or Windows; yay!  It will take me a while to get used to Linux but, thankfully, it’s not me who’s in charge of the switch-over.  My better half is doing most of the hard work.  I just had to make sure all my important stuff was backed up in a portable format.  Easier said than done but I think I did okay (fingers crossed).

Here is a poem I just found that I like very much.  It works best if you read it out loud:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Source: Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics, 1985) via

Still Retreating

Blogging is still on the back burner for me for a while but I wanted to share this poem with you.  It was written by a senior Buddhist monk of the Thai Forest Tradition called Ajahn Kalyano whom I met at a retreat centre last weekend.  I’ve been on quite a few retreats at this centre – Sunyata – before but this time was a bit different.  While Ajahn Kalyano is in residence, Sunyata is being run as a monastery.  This means, amongst other things, that residents try to abide by eight precepts, the spirit of which is summed up in Ajahn Kalyano’s poem below.  I think it is a beautiful way to show that the precepts are not about denial or self-punishment but about love and dharma.


Every man is our brother.

Every woman is our sister.

Everything we have is a gift.

All the food we eat is shared.

The front door is always open.


We have enough spirit, we’ve no need of a drink.

We don’t look for beautiful things we make everything beautiful.

With love.

We don’t make or listen to music we make all sounds into music

With love.

We don’t watch movies we make our life into a movie.

With love.

And when every man is our brother

And every woman is our sister

Sexual desire does not arise.

And truly awake we can find truth in peace and peace in truth.