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Short poem

Franklin Pierce Adams (1881-1960)

A Psalm of Freudian Life

              1Tell me not in mormonful numbers
              2    "Life is but an empty dream!"
              3To a student of the slumbers
              4    Things are never what they seem.

              5Life is yearning and suppression;
              6    Life is that to be enjoyed;
              7Puritanical discretion
              8    Was not spoke by Dr. Freud.

              9Deep enjoyment, and not sorrow,
            10    Is our destined end or way;
            11But to dream, that each to-morrow
            12    Finds us Freudier than to-day.

            13Sleep is long, and dreams are straying,
            14    And our hearts, though they may falter,
            15Still, like sexiphones, are playing
            16    Wedding marches to the altar.

            17In the universal battle,
            18    In the seraglio of life,
            19Be not like dumb, driven cattle --
            20    Beat your husband -- or your wife.

            21Trust no dame, however pleasant!
            22    Leave the dead ones on the shelf!
            23Act -- act in the living present!
            24    Nothing matters but Yourself.

            25Wives of great men all remind us
            26    We can make our lives a serial,
            27And, departing, leave behind us
            28    Biographical material.

            29Stories that perhaps another
            30    Sailing o'er life's Freudian sea --
            31A forlorn and dream-racked brother --
            32    Reading, might say, "How like me!"

            33Let us then be up and doing,
            34    With a heart for any mate;
            35Now eluding, nor pursuing,
            36    Learn to individuate.


1] A take-off of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "A Psalm of Life." Freudian: Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), the creator of psycho-analysis. Freud theorized that the mind's unconscious explained much of a person's behaviour and that dreams (see line 2) were guidebooks to that unconscious. mormonful: of the Mormons, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a sect originated by Joseph Smith, who founded Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1847 and who preached strict but compassionate moral guidelines for a fit and proper life. Adams, however, may have the Mormons' practice of polygamy in mind, given his allusion to a seraglio (18; cf. also 25, 34; courtesy of James Fulford).

15] sexiphones: a play on words still rare (not found deliberately employed on the Internet in August 2003).

18] seraglio: harem, a residence for the many wives (rarely, husbands) of a rich man (rarely, woman).

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Franklin P. Adams, So Much Velvet (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Page, and Co., 1924): 43-44. PS 3501 .D24 S46 Robarts Library
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2003
Recent editing: 1:2003/8/12*1:2003/8/29

Rhyme: abab

Other poems by Franklin Pierce Adams