'Warning , The' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Beware!The Israelite of old, who tore
The lion in his path,--when, poor and blind,
He saw the blessed light of heaven no more,
Shorn of his noble strength and forced to grind
In prison, and at last led forth to be
A pander to Philistine revelry,--

Upon the pillars of the temple laid
His desperate hands, and in its overthrow
Destroyed himself, and with him those who made
A cruel mockery of his sightless woe;
The poor, blind Slave, the scoff and jest of all,
Expired, and thousands perished in the fall!

There is a poor, blind Samson in this land,
Shorn of his strength and bound in bonds of steel,
Who may, in some grim revel, raise his hand,
And shake the pillars of this Commonweal,
Till the vast Temple of our liberties.
A shapeless mass of wreck and rubbish lies.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Warning, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Have you ever read a poem that sends shivers down your spine? That makes you pause and reflect on your life choices? That is exactly what Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Warning" does. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes, literary devices, and the overall message of the poem.


"Warning" was written by Longfellow in 1837 and was published in his collection of poems titled "Voices of the Night." Longfellow is widely regarded as one of the greatest American poets of the 19th century, and "Warning" is one of his most famous poems.


The poem revolves around a warning from a ghostly woman to a young man. The themes that emerge from this warning are time, mortality, and the inevitability of death. The poem reminds us that time is precious and that we should not waste it on trivial things. We are all going to die someday, and we should make the most of our time while we still have it.

Literary Devices

Longfellow uses a range of literary devices in "Warning" to convey his message. Here are some of the most prominent ones:


Longfellow personifies time and death throughout the poem. Time is described as "old and gray," and death is "cold and gray." This personification makes the abstract concepts of time and death more tangible and relatable to the reader.


The poem is full of vivid imagery that helps to bring the warning to life. The ghostly woman is described as "pale and white" and "misty and gray." The images of the "pale moon" and the "dying day" create a sense of melancholy and foreboding.


Longfellow uses repetition to emphasize the warning. The phrase "Be warned" is repeated several times throughout the poem, creating a sense of urgency and importance.

Rhyme and Meter

"Warning" is written in iambic tetrameter, which means that each line has four pairs of syllables, with the first syllable unstressed and the second syllable stressed. This creates a rhythmic pattern that is pleasing to the ear. Longfellow also uses a consistent rhyme scheme (ABCB) throughout the poem, which further adds to its musicality.


"Warning" is a powerful poem that has a clear message: time is precious, and we should not waste it. The ghostly woman's warning to the young man is a reminder that we are all mortal and that we should make the most of our time while we still have it.

The poem can be interpreted in several ways. One interpretation is that the ghostly woman represents our own mortality. She is a reminder that we are all going to die someday and that we should make the most of our time while we still can. The young man represents all of us, who often take our time on this earth for granted.

Another interpretation is that the poem is a commentary on the fleeting nature of life. Time passes quickly, and before we know it, we are old and gray, like time itself. The image of the "pale moon" and the "dying day" further emphasizes the transience of life.


"Warning" is a haunting and powerful poem that reminds us of the inevitability of death and the preciousness of time. Longfellow's use of personification, imagery, repetition, and rhyme and meter all contribute to the poem's effectiveness. While the poem may be somber, it also serves as a call to action, urging us to make the most of our time on this earth. So, be warned, dear reader, and make the most of your time while you still have it.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The world of poetry is a vast and beautiful one, filled with words that can transport us to different times and places, evoke emotions we never knew we had, and make us see the world in a whole new light. But as with any art form, there are rules and guidelines that must be followed in order to create something truly great. And that is where Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's classic poem "The Poet's Warning" comes in.

First published in 1839, "The Poet's Warning" is a cautionary tale about the dangers of writing bad poetry. Longfellow, one of the most popular and respected poets of his time, was known for his ability to craft beautiful and meaningful verses that spoke to the heart of the human experience. And in this poem, he uses his talent to warn aspiring poets of the pitfalls they must avoid if they want to succeed.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing a young poet, warning him of the dangers that lie ahead. "Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest," he says, "Home-keeping hearts are happiest." This opening stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is filled with advice and guidance for the young poet.

The second stanza is where Longfellow really starts to get into the nitty-gritty of what makes a good poem. "The world is too much with us," he says, "late and soon, / Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers." Here, he is warning the young poet not to get caught up in the material world, but to focus on the things that really matter. He advises him to "turn to Nature and her God" for inspiration, and to "learn in solitude to be alone."

The third stanza is perhaps the most important of the poem, as it lays out the specific things that the young poet must avoid if he wants to write good poetry. "Avoid the world, it is too much for thee," Longfellow says, "It takes thy breath away." He warns against trying to please everyone, saying that "the world will praise thee, then will leave thee." He also advises against writing for money or fame, saying that "the love of gold is root of all evil." Instead, he says, the young poet should write for the love of the art itself, and for the joy that it brings.

The fourth and final stanza is a call to action, urging the young poet to take up his pen and start writing. "But when the hours of darkness come," Longfellow says, "And thy soul turns to things above, / Fear not, for the light of the morning sun / Shall guide thee to thy love." Here, he is saying that even when things get tough, the young poet should never give up on his art. He should keep writing, keep striving to improve, and never lose sight of the beauty and power of poetry.

Overall, "The Poet's Warning" is a powerful and inspiring poem that speaks to the heart of what it means to be a poet. Longfellow's advice is as relevant today as it was when he first wrote it, and aspiring poets would do well to take heed of his words. By avoiding the pitfalls of bad poetry and staying true to the art form, they can create something truly beautiful and meaningful that will stand the test of time.

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