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 fa
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline. more…

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