'Children 's Hour, The' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, o blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Children's Hour": A Timeless Ode to Fatherhood and Familial Love

When Longfellow wrote "The Children's Hour" in 1860, he had already established himself as one of the greatest poets of his time. However, this poem proved to be one of his most enduring works, captivating readers of all ages with its heartfelt portrayal of fatherhood and familial love. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes, symbols, and poetic devices used by Longfellow to create a timeless ode to the joys of parenting.

The Theme of Fatherhood

At its core, "The Children's Hour" is a celebration of the joys of fatherhood. The poem depicts a father spending time with his children, immersing himself in their world of play and imagination. Longfellow captures the warmth and affection that a parent feels for their children, as he describes the father's "loving eyes" and "tender voices" that fill the room. Through his use of vivid imagery, Longfellow conjures up a sense of the beauty and innocence of childhood that is still relevant today.

The father in the poem is shown to be an idealized figure, who takes joy in his children's company and cherishes every moment spent with them. He is portrayed as patient, kind, and gentle, as he listens to his children's stories and laughs at their jokes. For Longfellow, this image of the perfect father is a reflection of his own experience as a parent. The poem is said to have been inspired by Longfellow's own relationship with his children, particularly his three daughters.

The Symbolism of the Hour

One of the most striking aspects of "The Children's Hour" is the use of the hour as a symbol of the father's love and devotion to his children. The poem is set at a specific time of day, when the children and their father spend an hour together before bedtime. This hour is depicted as a sacred time, a moment of intimacy and connection between parent and child. Longfellow emphasizes the preciousness of this hour, as he writes:

Between the dark and the daylight, When the night is beginning to lower, Comes a pause in the day's occupations, That is known as the Children's Hour.

The use of the hour as a symbol is particularly effective in conveying the fleeting nature of childhood. Longfellow recognizes that childhood is a brief and precious time, and that parents must make the most of the hours they have with their children. At the same time, the hour also represents the enduring nature of the father's love. Longfellow suggests that even as the children grow up and leave home, the memories of these precious hours spent together will live on.

Poetic Devices Used in "The Children's Hour"

Longfellow's mastery of language and poetic devices is on full display in "The Children's Hour". One of the most effective devices used in the poem is the repetition of the phrase "the Children's Hour" throughout the poem. This repetition creates a sense of rhythm and musicality that captures the playful and joyful nature of the children in the poem. It also serves to emphasize the importance of this hour to both the father and the children.

Another device used by Longfellow is the use of metaphors and similes to create vivid images in the reader's mind. For example, he compares the children's laughter to "the ripple of the river, / Or the twinkling of the stars". This comparison creates a sense of beauty and wonder, and captures the infectious joy of the children. Longfellow also uses personification to bring the world of the children to life, as he describes the "gay motes" that dance in the sunlight, and the "elves" that play in the shadows.


In "The Children's Hour", Longfellow has created a timeless ode to fatherhood and familial love. Through his use of vivid imagery, symbolism, and poetic devices, he captures the warmth and affection that a parent feels for their children. The poem reminds us of the fleeting nature of childhood, and the importance of making the most of the precious hours we have with our loved ones. It is a testament to Longfellow's skill as a poet that this poem still resonates with readers today, over 160 years after it was first published.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Poetry Children's Hour: A Timeless Classic by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

If you're a lover of poetry, then you've probably heard of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He's one of the most famous poets in American history, and his works have been studied and admired for generations. One of his most beloved poems is "The Children's Hour," a beautiful and touching piece that captures the essence of childhood and the love between a parent and child.

"The Children's Hour" was first published in 1860, and it quickly became a favorite among readers. The poem is written in Longfellow's signature style, with flowing, melodic lines and a gentle rhythm that draws the reader in. The poem is also notable for its use of imagery and metaphor, which help to create a vivid and emotional picture of the scene.

The poem begins with the speaker describing a scene in which he is sitting with his children in a room filled with books and toys. The children are playing and laughing, and the speaker is filled with a sense of joy and contentment. He describes the room as a "bower" and the children as "fair and blossoming" flowers. This imagery creates a sense of warmth and comfort, and it sets the tone for the rest of the poem.

As the poem continues, the speaker reflects on the love he has for his children. He describes them as his "treasures" and his "jewels," and he expresses his gratitude for their presence in his life. He also acknowledges the fleeting nature of childhood, and he expresses a desire to hold onto these moments forever. This sentiment is captured in the famous lines, "But the love of the children, like the sunflower, /Waits for the sun, and turns to heavenward."

The poem then takes a more somber turn as the speaker acknowledges that he cannot protect his children from the harsh realities of the world. He describes the "shadows" that lurk outside the room, and he acknowledges that his children will one day have to face them. This is a poignant moment in the poem, as it captures the bittersweet nature of parenthood. On the one hand, there is the joy and love that comes with raising children. On the other hand, there is the knowledge that one day they will have to face the challenges and hardships of life.

Despite this, the poem ends on a hopeful note. The speaker expresses his belief that his love for his children will protect them from harm, and he describes the room as a "sanctuary" where they can find refuge from the world. This is a powerful message, as it speaks to the power of love and the importance of creating a safe and nurturing environment for children.

Overall, "The Children's Hour" is a beautiful and timeless poem that captures the essence of childhood and the love between a parent and child. Longfellow's use of imagery and metaphor creates a vivid and emotional picture of the scene, and his words are filled with warmth, love, and hope. The poem is a testament to the power of love and the importance of creating a safe and nurturing environment for children, and it continues to resonate with readers today.

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