In "A Psalm of Life," the speaker, a young man, addresses the psalmist, rejecting his negative outlook on life. Starting with a bold proclamation, the speaker contradicts the psalmist's sorrowful assertion that life is merely an 'empty dream.' He insists life is real and earnest and that the true purpose of life isn't leisure or sorrow but to act in a manner that each passing day sees us better than the previous.
The poem evokes the imagery of life as a battlefield, stressing the importance of not behaving like 'dumb, driven cattle' but rather being heroic in the face of life's challenges. It also warns against trusting blindly in the future, urging instead to act in the present while retaining faith in God.
The speaker draws inspiration from the lives of great men, who, he contends, serve as a reminder of how we can elevate our own lives. These great men, through their remarkable deeds, have left identifiable marks—a legacy, if you will—on the sands of time. Those who are feeling forlorn in life might take heart from their example and muster the courage to keep moving forward.
In the final stanza, the speaker motivates the reader to be proactive. He encourages accepting any fate with a brave heart. Also, he emphasizes the continuous cycles of achievements and pursuits, inspiring us to keep learning, working, and waiting patiently for the fruits of our labours.
In sum, the poem is an assertive call to action urging individuals to seize the day and live their lives to the fullest, building a legacy that may in turn inspire others. "A Psalm of Life" is ultimately an assertion of faith in humanity’s potential for greatness and the enrichment of life through hard work and perseverance.