Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Here you will find the Long Poem Morituri Salutamus: Poem for the Fiftieth Anniversary of th of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Morituri Salutamus: Poem for the Fiftieth Anniversary of th

Tempora labuntur, tacitisque senescimus annis, 
Et fugiunt freno non remorante dies. 
 Ovid, Fastorum, Lib. vi.
 "O Cæsar, we who are about to die 
 Salute you!" was the gladiators' cry 
 In the arena, standing face to face 
 With death and with the Roman populace. 
 O ye familiar scenes,--ye groves of pine, 
 That once were mine and are no longer mine,-- 
 Thou river, widening through the meadows green 
 To the vast sea, so near and yet unseen,-- 
 Ye halls, in whose seclusion and repose 

 Phantoms of fame, like exhalations, rose 
 And vanished,--we who are about to die, 
 Salute you; earth and air and sea and sky, 
 And the Imperial Sun that scatters down 
 His sovereign splendors upon grove and town. 

 Ye do not answer us! ye do not hear! 
 We are forgotten; and in your austere 
 And calm indifference, ye little care 
 Whether we come or go, or whence or where. 
 What passing generations fill these halls, 
 What passing voices echo from these walls, 
 Ye heed not; we are only as the blast, 
 A moment heard, and then forever past. 

 Not so the teachers who in earlier days 
 Led our bewildered feet through learning's maze; 
 They answer us--alas! what have I said? 
 What greetings come there from the voiceless dead? 
 What salutation, welcome, or reply? 
 What pressure from the hands that lifeless lie? 
 They are no longer here; they all are gone 
 Into the land of shadows,--all save one. 
 Honor and reverence, and the good repute 
 That follows faithful service as its fruit, 
 Be unto him, whom living we salute. 

 The great Italian poet, when he made 
 His dreadful journey to the realms of shade, 
 Met there the old instructor of his youth, 
 And cried in tones of pity and of ruth: 
 "Oh, never from the memory of my heart 

 Your dear, paternal image shall depart, 
 Who while on earth, ere yet by death surprised, 
 Taught me how mortals are immortalized; 
 How grateful am I for that patient care 
 All my life long my language shall declare." 

 To-day we make the poet's words our own, 
 And utter them in plaintive undertone; 
 Nor to the living only be they said, 
 But to the other living called the dead, 
 Whose dear, paternal images appear 
 Not wrapped in gloom, but robed in sunshine here; 
 Whose simple lives, complete and without flaw, 
 Were part and parcel of great Nature's law; 
 Who said not to their Lord, as if afraid, 
 "Here is thy talent in a napkin laid," 
 But labored in their sphere, as men who live 
 In the delight that work alone can give. 
 Peace be to them; eternal peace and rest, 
 And the fulfilment of the great behest: 
 "Ye have been faithful over a few things, 
 Over ten cities shall ye reign as kings." 

 And ye who fill the places we once filled, 
 And follow in the furrows that we tilled, 
 Young men, whose generous hearts are beating high, 
 We who are old, and are about to die, 
 Salute you; hail you; take your hands in ours, 
 And crown you with our welcome as with flowers! 

 How beautiful is youth! how bright it gleams 
 With its illusions, aspirations, dreams! 
 Book of Beginnings, Story without End, 
 Each maid a heroine, and each man a friend! 
 Aladdin's Lamp, and Fortunatus' Purse, 
 That holds the treasures of the universe! 
 All possibilities are in its hands, 
 No danger daunts it, and no foe withstands; 
 In its sublime audacity of faith, 
 "Be thou removed!" it to the mountain saith, 
 And with ambitious feet, secure and proud, 
 Ascends the ladder leaning on the cloud! 

 As ancient Priam at the Scæan gate 
 Sat on the walls of Troy in regal state 
 With the old men, too old and weak to fight, 
 Chirping like grasshoppers in their delight 
 To see the embattled hosts, with spear and shield, 
 Of Trojans and Achaians in the field; 
 So from the snowy summits of our years 
 We see you in the plain, as each appears, 
 And question of you; asking, "Who is he 
 That towers above the others? Which may be 
 Atreides, Menelaus, Odysseus, 
 Ajax the great, or bold Idomeneus?" 

 Let him not boast who puts his armor on 
 As he who puts it off, the battle done. 
 Study yourselves; and most of all note well 
 Wherein kind Nature meant you to excel. 
 Not every blossom ripens into fruit; 
 Minerva, the inventress of the flute, 
 Flung it aside, when she her face surveyed 
 Distorted in a fountain as she played; 
 The unlucky Marsyas found it, and his fate 
 Was one to make the bravest hesitate. 

 Write on your doors the saying wise and old, 
 "Be bold! be bold!" and everywhere, "Be bold; 
 Be not too bold!" Yet better the excess 
 Than the defect; better the more than less; 
 Better like Hector in the field t