'To a Child' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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Dear child! how radiant on thy mother's knee,
With merry-making eyes and jocund smiles,
Thou gazest at the painted tiles,
Whose figures grace,
With many a grotesque form and face.
The ancient chimney of thy nursery!
The lady with the gay macaw,
The dancing girl, the grave bashaw
With bearded lip and chin;
And, leaning idly o'er his gate,
Beneath the imperial fan of state,
The Chinese mandarin.
With what a look of proud command
Thou shakest in thy little hand
The coral rattle with its silver bells,
Making a merry tune!
Thousands of years in Indian seas
That coral grew, by slow degrees,
Until some deadly and wild monsoon
Dashed it on Coromandel's sand!
Those silver bells
Reposed of yore,
As shapeless ore,
Far down in the deep-sunken wells
Of darksome mines,
In some obscure and sunless place,
Beneath huge Chimborazo's base,
Or Potosi's o'erhanging pines
And thus for thee, O little child,
Through many a danger and escape,
The tall ships passed the stormy cape;
For thee in foreign lands remote,
Beneath a burning, tropic clime,
The Indian peasant, chasing the wild goat,
Himself as swift and wild,
In falling, clutched the frail arbute,
The fibres of whose shallow root,
Uplifted from the soil, betrayed
The silver veins beneath it laid,
The buried treasures of the miser, Time.
But, lo! thy door is left ajar!
Thou hearest footsteps from afar!
And, at the sound,
Thou turnest round
With quick and questioning eyes,
Like one, who, in a foreign land,
Beholds on every hand
Some source of wonder and surprise!
And, restlessly, impatiently,
Thou strivest, strugglest, to be free,
The four walls of thy nursery
Are now like prison walls to thee.
No more thy mother's smiles,
No more the painted tiles,
Delight thee, nor the playthings on the floor,
That won thy little, beating heart before;
Thou strugglest for the open door.
Through these once solitary halls
Thy pattering footstep falls.
The sound of thy merry voice
Makes the old walls
Jubilant, and they rejoice
With the joy of thy young heart,
O'er the light of whose gladness
No shadows of sadness
From the sombre background of memory start.
Once, ah, once, within these walls,
One whom memory oft recalls,
The Father of his Country, dwelt.
And yonder meadows broad and damp
The fires of the besieging camp
Encircled with a burning belt.
Up and down these echoing stairs,
Heavy with the weight of cares,
Sounded his majestic tread;
Yes, within this very room
Sat he in those hours of gloom,
Weary both in heart and head.
But what are these grave thoughts to thee?
Out, out! into the open air!
Thy only dream is liberty,
Thou carest little how or where.
I see thee eager at thy play,
Now shouting to the apples on the tree,
With cheeks as round and red as they;
And now among the yellow stalks,
Among the flowering shrubs and plants,
As restless as the bee.
Along the garden walks,
The tracks of thy small carriage-wheels I trace;
And see at every turn how they efface
Whole villages of sand-roofed tents,
That rise like golden domes
Above the cavernous and secret homes
Of wandering and nomadic tribes of ants.
Ah, cruel little Tamerlane,
Who, with thy dreadful reign,
Dost persecute and overwhelm
These hapless Troglodytes of thy realm!
What! tired already! with those suppliant looks,
And voice more beautiful than a poet's books,
Or murmuring sound of water as it flows.
Thou comest back to parley with repose;
This rustic seat in the old apple-tree,
With its o'erhanging golden canopy
Of leaves illuminate with autumnal hues,
And shining with the argent light of dews,
Shall for a season be our place of rest.
Beneath us, like an oriole's pendent nest,
From which the laughing birds have taken wing,
By thee abandoned, hangs thy vacant swing.
Dream-like the waters of the river gleam;
A sailless vessel drops adown the stream,
And like it, to a sea as wide and deep,
Thou driftest gently down the tides of sleep.
O child! O new-born denizen
Of life's great city! on thy head
The glory of the morn is shed,
Like a celestial benison!
Here at the portal thou dost stand,
And with thy little hand
Thou openest the mysterious gate
Into the future's undiscovered land.
I see its valves expand,
As at the touch of Fate!
Into those realms of love and hate,
Into that darkness blank and drear,
By some prophetic feeling taught,
I launch the bold, adventurous thought,
Freighted with hope and fear;
As upon subterranean streams,
In caverns unexplored and dark,
Men sometimes launch a fragile bark,
Laden with flickering fire,
And watch its swift-receding beams,
Until at length they disappear,
And in the distant dark expire.
By what astrology of fear or hope
Dare I to cast thy horoscope!
Like the new moon thy life appears;
A little strip of silver light,
And widening outward into night
The shadowy disk of future years;
And yet upon its outer rim,
A luminous circle, faint and dim,
And scarcely visible to us here,
Rounds and completes the perfect sphere;
A prophecy and intimation,
A pale and feeble adumbration,
Of the great world of light, that lies
Behind all human destinies.
Ah! if thy fate, with anguish fraught,
Should be to wet the dusty soil
With the hot tears and sweat of toil,--
To struggle with imperious thought,
Until the overburdened brain,
Weary with labor, faint with pain,
Like a jarred pendulum, retain
Only its motion, not its power,--
Remember, in that perilous hour,
When most afflicted and oppressed,
From labor there shall come forth rest.
And if a more auspicious fate
On thy advancing steps await
Still let it ever be thy pride
To linger by the laborer's side;
With words of sympathy or song
To cheer the dreary march along
Of the great army of the poor,
O'er desert sand, o'er dangerous moor.
Nor to thyself the task shall be
Without reward; for thou shalt learn
The wisdom early to discern
True beauty in utility;
As great Pythagoras of yore,
Standing beside the blacksmith's door,
And hearing the hammers, as they smote
The anvils with a different note,
Stole from the varying tones, that hung
Vibrant on every iron tongue,
The secret of the sounding wire.
And formed the seven-chorded lyre.
Enough! I will not play the Seer;
I will no longer strive to ope
The mystic volume, where appear
The herald Hope, forerunning Fear,
And Fear, the pursuivant of Hope.
Thy destiny remains untold;
For, like Acestes' shaft of old,
The swift thought kindles as it flies,
And burns to ashes in the skies.
Editor 1 Interpretation
To a Child: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation
Oh, To a Child! What a beautiful poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow! This classic piece of poetry is one that has captured the hearts and souls of many, and is still relevant today. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve deep into the poem and explore its themes, motifs, and literary devices, and seek to understand its significance.
To a Child is a poem that is addressed to a child, and is filled with imagery, metaphors, and symbols that are designed to evoke emotion and create a sense of wonder. The poem begins with the speaker asking the child to come to him, and then proceeds to describe the beauty of the world around them. The speaker talks about the birds, flowers, and trees, and how they all contribute to the beauty of nature.
As the poem progresses, the speaker discusses the inevitability of death, and how it is a natural part of life. The speaker encourages the child to enjoy life while they can, and to find joy in the simple things. The poem ends with the speaker reassuring the child that they are loved, and that they will always be remembered.
One of the main themes of To a Child is the beauty of nature. Longfellow uses vivid imagery to describe the natural world, and the effect it has on the human spirit. The poem is filled with descriptions of flowers, birds, and trees, and the speaker encourages the child to appreciate the beauty of these things while they can.
Another theme of the poem is the inevitability of death. Longfellow acknowledges that death is a natural part of life, and that everyone must face it eventually. However, the poem also emphasizes the importance of living life to the fullest, and finding joy in the simple things.
Yet another theme of the poem is the importance of love and remembrance. The speaker reassures the child that they are loved, and that they will always be remembered. This theme underscores the importance of relationships, and the role they play in our lives.
One of the main motifs in To a Child is that of innocence. The poem is addressed to a child, and the speaker encourages the child to enjoy life while they can. This motif emphasizes the fleeting nature of childhood, and the importance of cherishing it while it lasts.
Another motif in the poem is that of nature. Longfellow uses vivid descriptions of the natural world to create a sense of wonder and awe. This motif underscores the beauty of the natural world, and the role it plays in our lives.
Longfellow uses a variety of literary devices in To a Child to create a sense of beauty and wonder. One of the most prominent devices he uses is imagery. Through his use of vivid descriptions of the natural world, Longfellow creates a sense of awe and wonder that is designed to inspire the reader.
Another literary device Longfellow uses is metaphor. He compares the natural world to a symphony, and the child to a bird, in order to create a sense of beauty and harmony.
Longfellow also uses repetition in the poem, particularly in the refrain "Life is but a fleeting dream." This repetition emphasizes the transitory nature of life, and underscores the importance of cherishing every moment.
To a Child is a poem that speaks to the human spirit, and encourages us to appreciate the beauty of the natural world, and the importance of cherishing life while we can. The poem acknowledges the inevitability of death, and encourages us to find joy in the simple things. It also underscores the importance of relationships, and the role they play in our lives.
In many ways, To a Child is a poem about gratitude. Longfellow encourages us to be grateful for the beauty of the natural world, and the fleeting nature of life. He also encourages us to be grateful for the love and relationships we have in our lives, and the memories we create with those we care about.
In conclusion, To a Child is a beautiful and timeless poem that speaks to the human spirit. Its themes of nature, death, love, and remembrance are universal, and its literary devices are skillfully employed to evoke emotion and create a sense of wonder. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of poetry, and its ability to inspire, uplift, and touch our hearts.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry To a Child: An Analysis of Longfellow's Classic Poem
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Poetry To a Child" is a timeless classic that has captured the hearts of readers for generations. This poem is a beautiful expression of the power of poetry and its ability to inspire and uplift the human spirit. In this article, we will take a detailed look at this poem and explore its themes, structure, and literary devices.
The poem begins with the speaker addressing a child and inviting them to listen to the "sweet and solemn hymn" of poetry. The speaker describes poetry as a "voice of one who speaks from the distant hills" and compares it to the sound of a "brooklet that sings its way into the sea." These metaphors create a sense of wonder and magic around poetry, suggesting that it is a powerful force that can transport us to far-off places and connect us with the natural world.
The second stanza of the poem continues this theme of poetry's power to transport us. The speaker describes how poetry can take us to "the land of song" and "the realm of faëry." These are both mythical places that are associated with imagination and creativity. By suggesting that poetry can take us to these places, the speaker is emphasizing the idea that poetry is a source of inspiration and creativity.
The third stanza of the poem shifts focus to the child and their relationship with poetry. The speaker asks the child if they have ever heard the "whispering voice" of poetry and suggests that if they have not, they are missing out on something special. The speaker encourages the child to listen to the "murmuring stream" of poetry and to let it "flow into their soul." This metaphor suggests that poetry can have a profound impact on our inner selves and can help us connect with our emotions and feelings.
The fourth stanza of the poem continues this theme of poetry's emotional power. The speaker describes how poetry can make us feel "the thrill of joy" and "the pang of grief." This suggests that poetry can help us experience a wide range of emotions and can help us connect with our own humanity. The speaker also suggests that poetry can help us understand the world around us, describing it as a "mirror of the world."
The fifth and final stanza of the poem returns to the theme of poetry's ability to transport us. The speaker describes how poetry can take us to "the land of the Hereafter" and suggests that it can help us connect with the divine. This suggests that poetry can have a spiritual dimension and can help us connect with something greater than ourselves.
One of the most striking things about this poem is its structure. The poem is written in five stanzas, each with four lines. This creates a sense of symmetry and balance that is pleasing to the ear. The rhyme scheme of the poem is also worth noting. The first and third lines of each stanza rhyme, as do the second and fourth lines. This creates a sense of musicality and rhythm that adds to the poem's overall beauty.
Another notable feature of this poem is its use of literary devices. Longfellow uses metaphors throughout the poem to create a sense of wonder and magic around poetry. For example, he compares poetry to the sound of a "brooklet that sings its way into the sea" and to the voice of someone speaking from "the distant hills." These metaphors create a sense of poetry as a powerful force that can transport us to far-off places and connect us with the natural world.
Longfellow also uses repetition in the poem to emphasize certain ideas. For example, he repeats the phrase "the land of" in the second and fifth stanzas to create a sense of continuity and to emphasize the idea that poetry can take us to different places. He also repeats the phrase "the voice of" in the first and third stanzas to emphasize the idea that poetry is a form of communication.
In conclusion, "Poetry To a Child" is a beautiful and timeless poem that celebrates the power of poetry to inspire and uplift the human spirit. Longfellow's use of metaphors, repetition, and structure create a sense of wonder and magic around poetry, emphasizing its ability to transport us to far-off places and connect us with the natural world. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of poetry and its ability to touch our hearts and souls.
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