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What is the meaning of the "Psalm of Life"?

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Quick Answer

"A Psalm of Life" is a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Its subtitle reads "What the heart of the young man said to the psalmist." It is the poet's response to blind faith in religion, especially Christianity.

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Full Answer

"A Psalm of Life" tells the reader in many different ways to live life to the fullest. Longfellow writes that, "The grave is not the goal," supporting the carpe diem theme of the poem. The speaker also says, "Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!" and "Act,– act in the living present!"

"A Psalm" also seems to be a response to how people are told to live according to religion, mainly Christianity. The subtitle, "What the heart of the young man said to the psalmist," indicates the poem is a response to Christian doctrine. The speaker says, "Be not like dumb, driven cattle!" Here he seems to be referring to those who follow the Christian religion and assume what they are fed through religious text is true. Longfellow's young speaker completely shirks Christian belief, even going so far as to say, "For the soul is dead that slumbers." This suggests the young man believes that the afterlife doesn't exist as suggested by Christianity. If the afterlife doesn't exist, then we must live for our time on Earth and for the present.

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