'Belfry of Bruges, The' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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In the market-place of Bruges stands the belfry old and brown;
Thrice consumed and thrice rebuilded, still it watches o'er the
As the summer morn was breaking, on that lofty tower I stood,
And the world threw off the darkness, like the weeds of
Thick with towns and hamlets studded, and with streams and vapors
Like a shield embossed with silver, round and vast the landscape
At my feet the city slumbered.From its chimneys, here and
Wreaths of snow-white smoke, ascending, vanished, ghost-like,
Not a sound rose from the city at that early morning hour,
But I heard a heart of iron beating in the ancient tower.
From their nests beneath the rafters sang the swallows wild and
And the world, beneath me sleeping, seemed more distant than the
Then most musical and solemn, bringing back the olden times,
With their strange, unearthly changes rang the melancholy chimes,
Like the psalms from some old cloister, when the nuns sing in the
And the great bell tolled among them, like the chanting of a
Visions of the days departed, shadowy phantoms filled my brain;
They who live in history only seemed to walk the earth again;
All the Foresters of Flanders,--mighty Baldwin Bras de Fer,
Lyderick du Bucq and Cressy Philip, Guy de Dampierre.
I beheld the pageants splendid that adorned those days of old;
Stately dames, like queens attended, knights who bore the Fleece
Lombard and Venetian merchants with deep-laden argosies;
Ministers from twenty nations; more than royal pomp and ease.
I beheld proud Maximilian, kneeling humbly on the ground;
I beheld the gentle Mary, hunting with her hawk and hound;
And her lighted bridal-chamber, where a duke slept with the
And the armed guard around them, and the sword unsheathed
I beheld the Flemish weavers, with Namur and Juliers bold,
Marching homeward from the bloody battle of the Spurs of Gold;
Saw the light at Minnewater, saw the White Hoods moving west,
Saw great Artevelde victorious scale the Golden Dragon's nest.
And again the whiskered Spaniard all the land with terror smote;
And again the wild alarum sounded from the tocsin's throat;
Till the bell of Ghent responded o'er lagoon and dike of sand,
"I am Roland!I am Roland! there is victory in the land!"
Then the sound of drums aroused me.The awakened city's roar
Chased the phantoms I had summoned back into their graves once
Hours had passed away like minutes; and, before I was aware,
Lo! the shadow of the belfry crossed the sun-illumined square.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Beauty of Belfry of Bruges: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation
When we talk about classic poetry, one name that often comes to mind is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. As a celebrated American poet of the 19th century, Longfellow has contributed greatly to the literary world with works such as "The Song of Hiawatha" and "Paul Revere's Ride". However, one of his lesser-known yet equally captivating pieces is "Belfry of Bruges", a poem that takes us on a journey through the picturesque city of Bruges in Belgium.
Before diving into an analysis of the poem, let's first take a look at the text itself:
In the market-place of Bruges stands the belfry old and brown; Thrice consumed and thrice rebuilded, still it watches o'er the town. As the summer morn was breaking, on that lofty tower I stood, And the world threw off the darkness, like the weeds of widowhood.
Thick with towns and hamlets studded, and with streams and vapors gray, Like a shield embossed with silver, round and vast the landscape lay. At my feet the city slumbered. From its chimneys, here and there, Wreaths of snow-white smoke, ascending, vanished, ghost-like, into air.
Not a sound rose from the city at that early morning hour, But I heard a heart of iron beating in the ancient tower. From their nests beneath the rafters sang the swallows wild and high; And the world, beneath me sleeping, seemed more distant than the sky.
Then most musical and solemn, bringing back the olden times, With their strange, unearthly changes rang the melancholy chimes, Like the psalms from some old cloister when the nuns sing in the choir; And the great bell tolled among them, like the chanting of a friar.
Visions of the days departed, shadowy phantoms filled my brain; They who live in history only seemed to walk the streets again; And the names so linked together, it did not seem a severed link, Thoughts of whom the world was sweeter, for the love that them did think.
Grateful tears filled up my eyelids, as, upon that olden square, From the belfry's tower, vibrating, died the melancholy air.
The poem opens with a vivid description of the belfry in Bruges, a prominent landmark that has stood the test of time. Longfellow emphasizes its resilience by mentioning its three rebuildings after being consumed by fire. The belfry serves as a symbol of the city's history and endurance, a monument that has watched over Bruges for centuries.
In the second stanza, Longfellow paints a serene picture of the landscape surrounding the city, highlighting its natural beauty. He compares it to a "shield embossed with silver", a metaphor that conjures images of grandeur and nobility. This description of the landscape serves as a contrast to the bustling city at its feet, which, at the early morning hour, is still asleep.
The third stanza brings our attention back to the belfry, and the sound of the "heart of iron" beating within it. Here, Longfellow personifies the belfry, imbuing it with a sense of life and vitality. The swallows singing beneath the rafters also contribute to the sense of life within the tower.
The fourth stanza is where Longfellow's language becomes particularly striking. He describes the chimes of the belfry as "most musical and solemn", and the changes in their melody as "strange" and "unearthly". This use of language serves to emphasize the antiquity of the belfry and the history it contains within its walls.
In the fifth stanza, Longfellow's language becomes more nostalgic as he describes the phantoms of the past that fill his mind. He imagines the names and faces of historical figures walking the streets of Bruges, their presence still felt in the city. This verse serves as a reminder that the city is not just a physical place, but also a repository of history and memory.
Finally, in the sixth stanza, Longfellow expresses his gratitude for the emotions the belfry has evoked within him. He sheds tears at the sound of the chimes, moved by the sense of history and beauty that he has experienced. The melancholy air that dies away serves as a symbol of the transient nature of beauty and life, and the importance of cherishing the moments we have.
"Belfry of Bruges" is a poem that invites us to contemplate the beauty and history of a city, and the way in which the past is intertwined with the present. Longfellow's use of language is particularly noteworthy, as he chooses words and phrases that evoke a sense of timelessness and nostalgia.
At its heart, the poem is a meditation on the importance of memory and the way in which our experiences of the present are shaped by the past. By immersing himself in the history and beauty of Bruges, Longfellow is able to connect with something greater than himself, and to feel a sense of gratitude for the moments of beauty that he has experienced.
Overall, "Belfry of Bruges" is a beautiful and poignant poem that reminds us of the importance of cherishing the moments we have, and of acknowledging the role that history plays in shaping our lives. It is a testament to Longfellow's skill as a poet and his ability to capture the essence of a place in words.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Belfry of Bruges is a classic poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, an American poet known for his romantic and historical themes. The poem is a tribute to the iconic belfry tower in the city of Bruges, Belgium, which has stood for centuries as a symbol of the city's rich history and culture.
Longfellow's poem is a beautiful and evocative piece of writing that captures the essence of the belfry tower and the city of Bruges itself. The poem is written in Longfellow's signature style, which is characterized by its flowing, lyrical language and its use of vivid imagery and metaphor.
The poem begins with a description of the belfry tower, which Longfellow describes as "a tower of strength" that "stands four-square to all the winds that blow." This opening stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is filled with images of strength, resilience, and endurance.
Longfellow goes on to describe the tower's bells, which he calls "the sweetest in all the land." He describes the sound of the bells as "a melody that floats / Like a bird on the wing, / And the tones of the belfry bells / Have a music in them that can never die."
This description of the bells is particularly powerful, as it speaks to the enduring nature of the tower and its place in the city's history. The bells have been ringing for centuries, and they will continue to ring for centuries to come, reminding the people of Bruges of their rich cultural heritage and the importance of their city in the world.
Longfellow also describes the tower's clock, which he calls "a sentinel that stands / In the great cathedral tower." He describes the clock as "a faithful friend and true" that "keeps watch and ward / O'er the city he loves and guards."
This description of the clock is another powerful image, as it speaks to the tower's role as a protector and guardian of the city. The tower has stood for centuries, watching over the people of Bruges and keeping them safe from harm.
Longfellow's poem also touches on the theme of time, which is a recurring motif throughout his work. He describes the tower as "a monument of the past" that "stands like a mute / And melancholy finger / Pointing to the sky and all the vanities of life."
This description of the tower as a monument to the past is particularly poignant, as it speaks to the idea that the tower is a reminder of all that has come before and all that will come after. The tower stands as a symbol of the city's rich history and cultural heritage, reminding the people of Bruges of their place in the world and the importance of their past.
Overall, The Belfry of Bruges is a beautiful and evocative poem that captures the essence of the belfry tower and the city of Bruges itself. Longfellow's use of vivid imagery and metaphor creates a powerful and lasting impression, reminding us of the enduring nature of the tower and its place in the world. Whether you are a lover of poetry or simply a fan of history and culture, The Belfry of Bruges is a must-read for anyone who wants to experience the beauty and power of Longfellow's writing.
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