The Day is Done – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – Analysis

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 to-night 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 power to quiet
   The restless pulse of care,
And come 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.
Longfellow (1807 – 1882)

Mention of Longfellow immediately reminds me of the ‘Song of Hiawatha’ and the associated rhyme and rhythm and there is likewise a similar sense of musicality in this poem with the second and fourth line of each stanza rhymed. And there is that iambic flow with unstressed and stressed syllables as you read the stanzas; as in the opening lines – the day is done and the darkness / falls from the wings of night.

This is a poem all about sadness and there is that gentle soft fall of sadness akin to a feather wafting down to the ground by an eagle personified as the fall of night. As though the night has taken away something beautiful. The eagle is no longer seen. At the same time something beautiful remains by the feather slowly floating down.

So what is left at the end of the day is just a feather. The end of the day is often seen as a poetic suggestion to the end of life. So here is something beautiful left behind blowing in the wind and disappearing in the night.

Then the lights of the village are blurred as though the sadness has affected the poet’s vision. And there is sorrow with the sadness like with mist and rain; implying perhaps that the sorrow is not overwhelming.

And there is an ask for a simple poem. Not martial words or words from the great masters.  But for a poem from the heart from a humble poet, and someone who has gone through many trials of life but found joy despite all the difficulties. Metaphorical defined as showers from the clouds of summer. And associated with the ask for a poem is an ask for a reading of the poem, for a voice to be heard as a song to enhance the words. The choice of the poem is left up to the reader.

And if this occurs and the request successful cares will disappear akin to Arabs packing up their tents and stealing away. I like the thought that poetry can steal negative emotion and be uplifting.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Wikipedia – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – Wikipedia