Footprints On The Sands Of Time

This poem by the famous 19th century American writer, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is a call to make the most of life and leave a legacy after our deaths because we do not know when we will die. This poem might be especially suitable for secular or Humanist funerals.

Footprints On The Sands Of Time

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.
 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.

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