As I was reading the poem “A Psalm of Life,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, two ideas in particular stood out to me. 1.) That life is short, and time should be used wisely. And, 2.) This poem appears to be a response to the Old Testament Bible book of Ecclesiastes, which authorship is historically attributed to King Solomon of Israel.
The fist aspect is a rather popular theme- carpe diem. Seize the day. You never know how much time you will have left not his earth, thus is is important to be productive while you have the chance. Some opportunities are limited to youth, while others never are reached due to Death’s seemingly early arrival. That’s one reason why it is important to make what you do now count. Let your life be positively memorable now, while you have the chance to achieve greatness. Go for it!
Longfellow seems to be speaking to Solomon’s quote that “all is vanity under the sun.” What should be taken into consideration is Solomon’s perspective. He had virtually every material thing that his heart could desire. He had the opportunity to oversee the construction of the official temple for his nation. He had all the material things that the world could offer, but there was one element that possessions could not replace- a relationship with God. Solomon, a devout Jew, valued his relationship with God above all else. This can be seen in the closing of the book of Ecclesiastes where he says,”Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” (Ecc.12:13)
So, it would seem that in Solomon’s opinion, living to the fullest isn’t about gaining material things, but it is about living a life that is productive and honoring to God.
The following links provide access to the full poem and the book of Ecclesiastes.