'Wreck of the Hesperus, The' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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It was the schooner Hesperus,
That sailed the wintry sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
To bear him company.
Blue were her eyes as the fairy-flax,
Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,
That ope in the month of May.
The skipper he stood beside the helm,
His pipe was in his mouth,
And he watched how the veering flaw did blow
The smoke now West, now South.
Then up spake an old Sailor,
Had sailed to the Spanish Main,
'I pray thee, put into yonder port,
For I fear a hurricane.
"Last night, the moon had a golden ring,
And to-night no moon we seel"
The skipper, he blew a whiff from his pipe,
And a scornful laugh laughed he.
Colder and louder blew the wind,
A gale from the Northeast,
T'he snow fell hissing in the brine,
And the billows frothed like yeast.
Down came the storm, and smote amain
The vessel in its strength;
She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,
Then leaped her cable's length.
"Come hitherl come hitherl my little daughter,
And do not tremble so;
For I can weather the roughest gale
That ever wind did blow."
He wrapped her warm in his seaman's coat
Against the stinging blast;
He cut a rope from a broken spar,
And bound her to the mast.
'O fatherl I hear the church-bells ring,
Oh say, what may it be?'
"'Tis a fog-bell on a rock-bound coasti"-
And he steered for the open sea.
'O fathert I hear the sound of guns,
Oh say, what may it be?"
"Some ship in distress, that cannot live
In such an angry sea!"
'O fatherl I see a gleaming light,
Oh say, what may it be?"
But the father answered never a word,
A frozen corpse was he.
Lashed to the hclm, all stiff and stark,
With his face turned to the skies,
The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow
On his fixed and glassy eyes.
Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayed
That saved she might be;
And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave,
On the Lake of Galilee.
And fast through the midnight dark and drear,
Tbrougb the whistling sleet and snow,
Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept
Tow'rds the reef of Norman's Woe.
And ever the fitful gusts between
A sound came from the land;
It was the sound of the trampling surf
On the rocks and the bard sea-sand.
Ile breakers were right beneath her bows,
She drifted a dreary wreck,
And a whooping billow swept the crew
Like icicles from her deck.
She struck where the white and fleecy waves
Looked soft as carded wool,
But the cruel rocks, they gored her side
Like the horns of an angry bull.
Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice,
With the masts went by the board;
Like a vessel of glass, she stove and sank,
Ho! ho! the breakers roared!
At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,
A fisherman stood aghast,
To see the form of a maiden fair,
Lashed close to a drifting mast.
The salt sea was frozen on her breast,
The salt tears in her eyes;
And be saw her bair, like the brown seaweed,
On the billows fall and rise.
Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
In the midnight and the snow!
Christ save us all from a death like this,
On the reef of Norinan's Woel
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Wreck of the Hesperus by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Wow! I cannot emphasize enough on how incredibly moving Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "The Wreck of the Hesperus" is. It is a hauntingly beautiful narrative poem that tells the story of a tragic shipwreck and the sorrowful aftermath.
In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes, motifs, symbols, and literary devices used in "The Wreck of the Hesperus" and how they contribute to the overall impact of the poem.
"The Wreck of the Hesperus" is a ballad that tells the story of a captain, his daughter, and their ship, the Hesperus. The captain, proud and fearless, sets out to sea despite warnings of an impending storm. His daughter, a young and innocent girl, begs him to stay but to no avail.
As the storm hits, the ship is battered and broken, and the captain and his daughter are thrown into the icy waters. The captain dies, but his daughter clings to a piece of the ship's mast and washes ashore the next morning, frozen and lifeless.
The poem is an elegy to the lost souls of the Hesperus and a warning against the dangers of pride and arrogance.
One of the primary themes in "The Wreck of the Hesperus" is the destructive power of nature. Longfellow vividly describes the storm as a merciless force that wreaks havoc on the ship and its crew. The wind howls, the waves crash, and the sailors are tossed about like rag dolls. The storm is a reminder of how small and powerless humans are in the face of nature's wrath.
Another theme is the consequences of pride and arrogance. The captain's hubris leads him to ignore the warnings of the storm and put his daughter and crew in danger. His refusal to turn back shows his disregard for their safety and his overestimation of his own abilities. This ultimately leads to the tragic loss of life.
Additionally, the poem explores the notion of sacrifice and redemption. The captain's daughter sacrifices her life to warn other sailors of the dangers of the storm. Her death serves as a reminder that sometimes, one must make sacrifices for the greater good.
Motifs and Symbols
One of the most striking motifs in "The Wreck of the Hesperus" is the use of imagery related to death and destruction. The ship is described as a "spectral ship," and the captain is compared to the "grim Reaper." These images create a sense of foreboding and foreshadow the tragic outcome of the poem.
In addition, Longfellow uses symbolism to underscore the themes of the poem. The ship, for example, represents the pride and arrogance of the captain. The storm symbolizes the destructive power of nature, and the daughter's death represents the consequences of the captain's actions.
Longfellow employs several literary devices to create a powerful and immersive reading experience. One of the most prominent devices is repetition. The phrase "But the father answered never a word" is repeated several times throughout the poem, emphasizing the captain's stubbornness and his refusal to heed warnings.
Another device is alliteration, which creates a musical quality to the poem. The repetition of the "s" sound in "the sea was as still as a southern sea" and the "w" sound in "the waves were white" add to the overall effect of the poem.
Longfellow also uses personification to give human qualities to the storm. The storm is described as "a white sea-horse" and "a fiend," which makes it seem like a malevolent force with a will of its own.
In conclusion, "The Wreck of the Hesperus" is a haunting poem that explores themes of pride, sacrifice, and the destructive power of nature. Longfellow's use of motifs, symbols, and literary devices creates a powerful and immersive reading experience that stays with the reader long after the poem has ended.
This poem is a warning against the dangers of hubris and a reminder that sometimes, we must make sacrifices for the greater good. It is a poignant elegy to the lost souls of the Hesperus and a testament to Longfellow's skill as a poet.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Wreck of the Hesperus: A Classic Poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Wreck of the Hesperus is a classic poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1842. It tells the story of a ship, the Hesperus, that is caught in a terrible storm and sinks, taking the lives of all on board. The poem is a haunting and powerful tale of the dangers of the sea and the consequences of human arrogance and pride.
The poem begins with a description of the Hesperus, a beautiful ship that is sailing towards the coast of New England. The ship is commanded by a proud and arrogant captain who is determined to reach his destination, despite the warnings of the sailors and the signs of an impending storm. The captain's daughter is also on board, and she is described as being as beautiful as the ship itself.
As the ship sails closer to the coast, the storm begins to intensify. The wind howls and the waves grow larger and more violent. The sailors become increasingly worried and urge the captain to turn back, but he refuses, insisting that he can handle the storm. The captain's daughter, who is also on board, begs him to turn back, but he ignores her pleas.
As the storm rages on, the ship is battered by the waves and begins to take on water. The sailors try to bail out the water, but it is too much for them to handle. The ship begins to sink, and the sailors are thrown into the sea. The captain's daughter is also thrown overboard, and the captain himself is swept away by the waves.
The poem ends with a haunting image of the ship sinking beneath the waves, with the captain's daughter still clinging to the mast. The poem is a powerful reminder of the dangers of the sea and the consequences of human arrogance and pride.
One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of imagery. Longfellow uses vivid and powerful images to convey the intensity of the storm and the terror of the sailors. The wind is described as "a hurricane" and "a tempest," while the waves are "mountains" and "giants." These images create a sense of overwhelming power and danger, and they help to convey the sense of helplessness that the sailors must have felt in the face of such a storm.
Another important aspect of the poem is its use of symbolism. The ship itself is a symbol of human pride and arrogance. The captain is so determined to reach his destination that he ignores the warnings of the sailors and the signs of an impending storm. His pride and arrogance lead to the destruction of the ship and the loss of all on board. The captain's daughter, on the other hand, is a symbol of innocence and purity. She is described as being as beautiful as the ship itself, and her pleas for her father to turn back are ignored. Her innocence is ultimately destroyed by the storm, just as the ship is destroyed by the sea.
The poem also has a strong moral message. It is a warning against human arrogance and pride, and a reminder of the dangers of the sea. The captain's arrogance leads to the destruction of the ship and the loss of all on board. The poem is a powerful reminder that we must always respect the power of nature and never underestimate its ability to destroy us.
In conclusion, The Wreck of the Hesperus is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. Its vivid imagery, powerful symbolism, and strong moral message make it a haunting and powerful tale of the dangers of the sea and the consequences of human arrogance and pride. Longfellow's use of language and imagery creates a sense of overwhelming power and danger, and his message is as relevant today as it was when the poem was first written. The Wreck of the Hesperus is a timeless classic that will continue to be read and appreciated for generations to come.
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