The Ladder of St. Augustine

Original Text: 
The Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, with Bibliographical and Critical Notes, Riverside Edition(Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin, 1890), III:20-21. PS 2250 E90 Robarts Library.
1Saint Augustine! well hast thou said,
2    That of our vices we can frame
3A ladder, if we will but tread
4    Beneath our feet each deed of shame!
5All common things, each day's events,
6    That with the hour begin and end,
7Our pleasures and our discontents,
8    Are rounds by which we may ascend.
9The low desire, the base design,
10    That makes another's virtues less;
11The revel of the ruddy wine,
12    And all occasions of excess;
13The longing for ignoble things;
14    The strife for triumph more than truth;
15The hardening of the heart, that brings
16    Irreverence for the dreams of youth;
17All thoughts of ill; all evil deeds,
18    That have their root in thoughts of ill;
19Whatever hinders or impedes
20    The action of the nobler will; --
21All these must first be trampled down
22    Beneath our feet, if we would gain
23In the bright fields of fair renown
24    The right of eminent domain.
25We have not wings, we cannot soar;
26    But we have feet to scale and climb
27By slow degrees, by more and more,
28    The cloudy summits of our time.
29The mighty pyramids of stone
30    That wedge-like cleave the desert airs,
31When nearer seen, and better known,
32    Are but gigantic flights of stairs.
33The distant mountains, that uprear
34    Their solid bastions to the skies,
35Are crossed by pathways, that appear
36    As we to higher levels rise.
37The heights by great men reached and kept
38    Were not attained by sudden flight,
39But they, while their companions slept,
40    Were toiling upward in the night.
41Standing on what too long we bore
42    With shoulders bent and downcast eyes,
43We may discern -- unseen before --
44    A path to higher destinies,
45Nor doom the irrevocable Past
46    As wholly wasted, wholly vain,
47If, rising on its wrecks, at last
48    To something nobler we attain.
Publication Start Year: 
1858
Publication Notes: 
In Birds of Passage
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2000.
Rhyme: