'To the Driving Cloud' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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Gloomy and dark art thou, O chief of the mighty Omahas;
Gloomy and dark as the driving cloud, whose name thou hast taken!
Wrapt in thy scarlet blanket, I see thee stalk through the city's
Narrow and populous streets, as once by the margin of rivers
Stalked those birds unknown, that have left us only their
What, in a few short years, will remain of thy race but the
How canst thou walk these streets, who hast trod the green turf
of the prairies!
How canst thou breathe this air, who hast breathed the sweet air
of the mountains!
Ah! 't is in vain that with lordly looks of disdain thou dost
Looks of disdain in return,, and question these walls and these
Claiming the soil for thy hunting-grounds, while down-trodden
Starve in the garrets of Europe, and cry from its caverns that
Have been created heirs of the earth, and claim its division!
Back, then, back to thy woods in the regions west of the Wabash!
There as a monarch thou reignest.In autumn the leaves of the
Pave the floors of thy palace-halls with gold, and in summer
Pine-trees waft through its chambers the odorous breath of their
There thou art strong and great, a hero, a tamer of horses!
There thou chasest the stately stag on the banks of the Elkhorn,
Or by the roar of the Running-Water, or where the Omaha
Calls thee, and leaps through the wild ravine like a brave of the
Hark! what murmurs arise from the heart of those mountainous
Is it the cry of the Foxes and Crows, or the mighty Behemoth,
Who, unharmed, on his tusks once caught the bolts of the thunder,
And now lurks in his lair to destroy the race of the red man?
Far more fatal to thee and thy race than the Crows and the Foxes,
Far more fatal to thee and thy race than the tread of Behemoth,
Lo! the big thunder-canoe, that steadily breasts the Missouri's
Merciless current! and yonder, afar on the prairies, the
Gleam through the night; and the cloud of dust in the gray of the
Marks not the buffalo's track, nor the Mandan's dexterous
It is a caravan, whitening the desert where dwell the Camanches!
Ha! how the breath of these Saxons and Celts, like the blast of
Drifts evermore to the west the scanty smokes of thy wigwams!
Editor 1 Interpretation
To the Driving Cloud by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation
Ah, To the Driving Cloud by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow! This poem is a true masterpiece of romantic poetry. Its rhythm, imagery and metaphors are simply enchanting. Longfellow, one of the most celebrated poets of the 19th century, wrote this poem in 1839, at the height of the romantic movement in Europe and America. The poem is an ode to the beauty of nature, and a tribute to the power of imagination.
Analysis of the Poem
Form and Structure
To the Driving Cloud is a lyric poem, which means that it expresses the emotions and thoughts of the speaker in a subjective and personal way. The poem consists of four stanzas, each with eight lines. The rhyme scheme is ABABCCDD. The meter is iambic tetrameter, which means that each line has four iambs, or metrical feet, with the stress falling on every second syllable. The rhythm of the poem is smooth and flowing, with a sense of motion and movement that echoes the theme of the poem.
Imagery and Metaphors
The poem is full of vivid imagery and metaphors that create a rich and evocative atmosphere. The central metaphor of the poem is the cloud, which is described as a "driving cloud," a "cloud of the west," a "mighty army" and a "host of the air." The cloud is personified as a powerful and dynamic force that sweeps across the sky, changing shape and color as it goes. The cloud is a symbol of the natural world, and its movements are a metaphor for the unpredictability and uncontrollable power of nature.
The speaker of the poem addresses the cloud directly, using apostrophe, a figure of speech in which the speaker addresses an absent person or thing as if it were present. The speaker asks the cloud to reveal its secrets, to tell him where it has been and where it is going. The cloud becomes a symbol of the mystery and wonder of the world, and the speaker is filled with a sense of awe and wonder as he contemplates it.
Themes and Meanings
To the Driving Cloud is a poem about the beauty and power of nature, and the role of imagination in appreciating it. The poem celebrates the majesty and mystery of the natural world, and the way in which it inspires wonder and awe in the human heart. The cloud, with its ever-changing form and movement, becomes a symbol of the infinite variety and complexity of nature, and the need for us to embrace its mystery and unpredictability.
The poem also suggests the importance of imagination and creativity in appreciating the natural world. The speaker of the poem urges the cloud to "unroll thy splendors," to reveal its true beauty and power. He also suggests that the imagination can transform the world, by seeing it in a new way, and by creating new meanings and associations. The cloud becomes a canvas for the imagination, a symbol of the limitless possibilities of human creativity.
Tone and Mood
The tone of the poem is one of wonder and awe, mixed with a sense of curiosity and longing. The speaker is filled with a sense of wonder and admiration as he contemplates the cloud, but he is also curious to know more about it, to understand its secrets and its movements. The mood of the poem is one of enchantment and fascination, as the speaker is drawn into the beauty and mystery of the natural world. There is also a sense of melancholy and nostalgia, as the speaker contemplates the passing of time and the fleeting nature of beauty.
Criticism and Interpretation
To the Driving Cloud is a poem that has been widely praised for its beauty and power. Critics have noted the evocative imagery and metaphors, the smooth and flowing rhythm, and the sense of wonder and awe that permeates the poem. Some critics have also noted the influence of romanticism, with its emphasis on emotion, imagination, and the natural world.
One of the key themes of the poem is the importance of imagination in appreciating the natural world. Longfellow suggests that the world is full of hidden beauty and meaning, and it is only through the creative imagination that we can truly appreciate it. This theme is particularly relevant today, in an age of environmental crisis, when our relationship with the natural world is often one of exploitation and destruction. Longfellow reminds us of the need to see the world with fresh eyes, to embrace its mystery and complexity, and to use our imaginations to create new meanings and possibilities.
Another theme of the poem is the transience of beauty and the passage of time. The cloud is a symbol of fleeting beauty, constantly changing and shifting as it moves across the sky. Longfellow suggests that beauty is not something that can be captured or possessed, but rather something that must be appreciated in the moment, before it is gone forever. This theme is particularly relevant to our own lives, as we confront the impermanence of our own existence and the passing of time.
Finally, the poem is a celebration of the power and mystery of nature. Longfellow suggests that nature is not something that can be controlled or tamed, but rather something that is full of vitality and energy. The cloud is a symbol of this energy, a reminder that nature is constantly in motion, constantly changing and evolving. Longfellow's poem is a tribute to the beauty and power of the natural world, and a call to appreciate it in all its complexity and wonder.
To the Driving Cloud by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is a beautiful and powerful poem that celebrates the beauty and mystery of the natural world. Through its vivid imagery and metaphors, the poem evokes a sense of wonder and awe, reminding us of the need to see the world with fresh eyes and appreciate its infinite variety and complexity. The poem is a testament to the power of imagination and creativity, and a reminder of the transience of beauty and the passage of time. Longfellow's poem is a timeless masterpiece of romantic poetry, and a tribute to the enduring power of the human spirit.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry To the Driving Cloud: A Masterpiece of Romanticism
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the most celebrated poets of the 19th century, was known for his romantic and lyrical style of writing. His poem, "To the Driving Cloud," is a perfect example of his mastery of the Romanticism movement. This poem is a beautiful tribute to the power and beauty of nature, and it captures the essence of the Romanticism movement in its themes, imagery, and language.
The poem begins with an invocation to the "driving cloud," which is a metaphor for the power and majesty of nature. The cloud is described as "mighty," "glorious," and "majestic," and it is clear that Longfellow is in awe of its power. The cloud is also described as "driving," which suggests movement and energy, and this sets the tone for the rest of the poem.
Longfellow then goes on to describe the different forms that the cloud takes as it moves across the sky. He describes it as a "pillar of fire," a "mountain," and a "ship," all of which are powerful and awe-inspiring images. These images are also symbolic of the different aspects of nature, such as fire, earth, and water, and they show how nature can take on many different forms.
The poem then takes a more personal turn, as Longfellow addresses the cloud directly. He asks the cloud to "tell me, where, in what vast region, / Was thy birthplace?" This question shows Longfellow's curiosity about the origins of nature, and his desire to understand the mysteries of the natural world. He then goes on to ask the cloud about its journey across the sky, and he marvels at its ability to "sail on, O cloud, forever."
Longfellow's language in this poem is particularly striking. He uses vivid and descriptive language to create powerful images in the reader's mind. For example, he describes the cloud as "a giant on the mountains," which creates a vivid image of a massive, powerful force. He also uses alliteration and repetition to create a sense of rhythm and musicality in the poem. For example, he repeats the phrase "O cloud" several times throughout the poem, which creates a sense of urgency and excitement.
The themes of the poem are also typical of the Romanticism movement. Longfellow celebrates the power and beauty of nature, and he shows how nature can inspire awe and wonder in the human soul. He also shows how nature can be a source of comfort and solace in times of trouble, as he writes, "When the earth reels and rocks beneath me, / And the sky is dark above." This theme of finding solace in nature is a common one in Romantic literature, and it shows how nature can be a source of spiritual renewal and inspiration.
Overall, "To the Driving Cloud" is a beautiful and powerful poem that captures the essence of the Romanticism movement. Longfellow's use of vivid imagery, musical language, and powerful themes make this poem a masterpiece of Romantic literature. It is a tribute to the power and beauty of nature, and it shows how nature can inspire us to greatness and fill us with wonder and awe.
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