The Builders–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Builders Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme.

Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.

For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.

Truly shape and fashion these;
Leave no yawning gaps between;
Think not, because no man sees,
Such things will remain unseen.

In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere.

Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where Gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean.

Else our lives are incomplete,
Standing in these walls of Time,
Broken stairways, where the feet
Stumble as they seek to climb.

Build to-day, then, strong and sure,
With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall to-morrow find its place.

Thus alone can we attain
To those turrets, where the eye
Sees the world as one vast plain,
And one boundless reach of sky.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was the most popular American poet of his day. He achieved widespread fame with works like “Paul Revere’s Ride,” The Song of Hiawatha, and “The Wreck of the Hesperus” that idealized American history and landscapes. Though born in Portland, Maine, Longfellow spent much of his youth traveling Europe. These early travels inspired a lifelong interest in European cultures and traditions which he incorporated into his poetry. After returning to America, Longfellow accepted a professorship at Harvard College, becoming one of the first American academics focused on developing a genuinely American national literature. Known for his flowing rhyme schemes, use of folklore themes, and melancholic tone, Longfellow created accessible works that resonated powerfully with the public during his lifetime and after his death from peritonitis at age 75. More than just a famous name, Longfellow left an enduring mark on American letters through poems that gave a new nation myths and stories of its own.