Virginia Lucas Poetry Scrapbook

Formal Description: "Psalm of Life"

Longfellow’s “Psalm of Life” is arranged with a true rhyme scheme, where the stressed vowel sounds and the subsequent sounds are identical. There is only one instance of slant rhyme, which is illustrated in the eighth stanza with the words “main” and “again.”  The poem is set with a quatrain rhyming pattern (abab, cdcd, etc.), which is demonstrated by alternating rhymes within four line stanzas.  Moreover, in each stanza there is a general pattern corresponding to the number of syllables present in the end word of each alternative line. Typically, the end words in the first and third lines have two or three syllables (“numbers” and “slumbers”), whereas the second and fourth lines have one syllable (“dream” and “seem”). However, there are two violations of this pattern, namely in the seventh and eighth stanzas of the poem. In the seventh stanza, the first and third line end words have one syllable (“us” and “us”), and the second line end word has two syllables (“sublime”). In the eighth stanza, the second line end word has one syllable (“main”), but the fourth line end word has two syllables (“again”).   
Longfellow’s “Psalm of Life” is written in trochaic tetrameter. Each line can be divided into four feet with a heavy stress proceeded by a light stress per foot.
Lines & Stanzas
Longfellow’s “Psalm of Life” is organized with both self-enclosed lines and enjambment. These instances of complete and broken sentences are spread throughout, and the regularity of both elements is quite balanced. There are two instances of a caesura: one in stanza two ("Life [...] Life") and the other in stanza six (“Act — Act”). There are three instances of repetition (“life,” “act,” and “footprints”) spread through the poem. This poem is almost written in perfect syllabic verse. The reason this is not perfect is due to one particular violation. Except for stanza two (and potentially stanza four), every set of stanza lines is written with an alternating eight syllable – seven syllable pattern. 
Longfellow’s “Psalm of Life” has many elements of alliteration spread throughout the poem. Such instances include words that begin with these letters: s, g, f, m, b, h, and l. The alliteration occurs within single lines.