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The Day is Done -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

       
(Poem #884) The Day is Done
 The day is done, and the darkness
 Falls from the wings of Night,
 As a feather is wafted downward
 From an eagle in his flight.

 I see the lights of the village
 Gleam through the rain and the mist,
 And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me
 That my soul cannot resist:

 A feeling of sadness and longing,
 That is not akin to pain,
 And resembles sorrow only
 As the mist resembles the rain.

 Come, read to me some poem,
 Some simple and heartfelt lay,
 That shall soothe this restless feeling,
 And banish the thoughts of day.

 Not from the grand old masters,
 Not from the bards sublime,
 Whose distant footsteps echo
 Through the corridors of Time,

 For, like strains of martial music,
 Their mighty thoughts suggest
 Life's endless toil and endeavor;
 And tonight I long for rest.

 Read from some humbler poet,
 Whose songs gushed from his heart,
 As showers from the clouds of summer,
 Or tears from the eyelids start;

 Who, through long days of labor,
 And nights devoid of ease,
 Still heard in his soul the music
 Of wonderful melodies.

 Such songs have a power to quiet
 The restless pulse of care,
 And comes like the benediction
 That follows after prayer.

 Then read from the treasured volume
 The poem of thy choice,
 And lend to the rhyme of the poet
 The beauty of thy voice.

 And the night shall be filled with music,
 And the cares, that infest the day,
 Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
 And as silently steal away.
-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Longfellow's another poet I have found myself reading increasingly of late -
there is something both soothing and satisfyingly right about his choice of
words and images. The soothing aspect stems, I think, mainly from his easy
acceptance of timeworn themes, his refusal to be startling for the mere sake
of being startling. This is not, however, to suggest that his poetry is
cliched - like all the great poets, Longfellow can take an old idea, shape
and polish it until it glows softly and then fit it seamlessly into the
larger pattern of a poem.

Today's poem is an excellent illustration. The first verse is about as
timeworn an image as one can ask for, but handled with a quiet assurance
that saves it from triteness. The rest of the poem develops as quietly,
laying down its images of rest and peace, interspersed with some beautiful
images like

          A feeling of sadness and longing,
          That is not akin to pain,
          And resembles sorrow only
          As the mist resembles the rain.

and the whole, despite the occasional faltering step, *works* - the verses
build up in a hypnotic rhythm that does indeed 'have a power to quiet the
restless pulse of care'.

I will admit, though, that poems like this one require a certain suspension
of criticism on the part of the reader. Longfellow's use of both language
and imagery is deliberate rather than subtle, and to balk at the obviousness
and refuse to be led is to lose the point of the poem. Rather, the reader
has to be willing to immerse himself in the poem, and ignore the occasional
hiccup for the sake of the overall effect.

Afterthought: The last verse of the poem qualifies it for the Bertie Wooster
theme we ran a while back - see poem #720 for the theme summary.

-martin

30 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Cleohnuuanu said...

TONIGHT I FOUND LONGFELLOWS POEM
" THE DAY IS DONE". I HAVE NEVER KNOWN MUCH ABOUT OTHERS LIVES,I GUES I WAS
TO INVOLVED IN MY OWN. THERE IS A TIME IN OUR LIVES WHEN WE FEEL MORE THAN
WE CAN ENDURE MORE THAN WE CAN ACCEPT TO FEEL AND I AM HERE. I DON'T WANT TO
FEEL I WANT TO ACCEPT AND NOW I KNOW THAT THERE WAS SOMEONE WHO FEELS THE SAME
AS I DO. tHANK YOU HWL..

Jdharrison105196 said...

from john harrison

good day

"the day is done" is an interesting poem. i first discovered it on the tv
show "the brady bunch". in one episode, a teacher ordered one of the boys to
recite it at a school function a few weeks later. the boy decided to jazz it
up with special effects. for example, someone swung a fake chicken and
feathers when he mentioned the feather from the eagle. also someone dumped water
on his head when he mentioned the rain.

so long

MiliMoje said...

words can not express the beauty of this poem. I touches the very core of the
soul in surch for understanding and hope.......simply beautiful.....ms. H.
Kotur

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