sharing my love of books with you

Month: March 2024


Bivouac – the guard or watch of a whole army, as incases of great danger of surprise or attack

“In the world’s broad field of battle,

In the bivouac of Life,

Be not like the dumb, driven cattle!

Be a hero in the strife!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, A Psalm of Life

A Psalm of Life, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


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 tomorrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Sill, 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 the 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.

("Psalm of Life", Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Selected Poems, 1988)


Pelf – money; riches; but it often conveys the idea of something ill gotten or worthless

“The writer of this legend then records

Its ghostly application in these words:

The image is the Adversary old,

Whose beckoning finger points to realms of gold,

Our lusts and passions are the downward air;

The archer, Death; the flaming jewel, Life;

Terrestrial goods, the goblet and the knife;

The knights and ladies, all whose flesh and bone

By avarice have been hardened into stone;

The clerk, the scholar whom the love of pelf

Temps from his books and from his nobler self.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Morituri Salutamus

Death the Consoler

“And, as she looked around, she saw how Death, the consoler,

Laying his hand upon many a heart, had healed it forever.”

Henry Waldsworth Longfellow, Evangeline

Birthday, by Billy Collins

Before it was over
I took out a pencil and a notepad
and figured out roughly what was left -
a small box of Octobers, a handful of Aprils,

little time to waste reading a large novel
on the couch every evening,
a few candles flaming in the corners of the room.
A fishbowl of Mondays, a row of Fridays -

yet I cannot come up with anything
better than to strike a match,
settle in under a light blanket,
and open to the first sentence of Clarissa.

Look at me setting off on this long journey
through ink and tears,
through secrecy and distress,
anticipation and swordplay.

As the darkness thickens
and the morning glory puts down its trumpet,
as worms begin to sing in the garden,
and Christ looks down from the wall,

I will begin inching toward the end -
page one thousand five hundred and thirty-three
in this paperback Penguin edition,
introduction and notes by one Angus Ross.

("Birthday", Billy Collins, in Nine Horses, 2002)

What better way to spend a birthday? Engrossed in a book (old favorite or new adventure). Better than how I spent it – renewing my drivers license and running errands. But it wasn’t all in vain, because while I waited, I read this poem. And that made my birthday a little more special.