'Good Part, That Shall Not Be Taken Away, The' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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She dwells by Great Kenhawa's side,
In valleys green and cool;
And all her hope and all her pride
Are in the village school.

Her soul, like the transparent air
That robes the hills above,
Though not of earth, encircles there
All things with arms of love.

And thus she walks among her girls
With praise and mild rebukes;
Subduing e'en rude village churls
By her angelic looks.

She reads to them at eventide
Of One who came to save;
To cast the captive's chains aside
And liberate the slave.

And oft the blessed time foretells
When all men shall be free;
And musical, as silver bells,
Their falling chains shall be.

And following her beloved Lord,
In decent poverty,
She makes her life one sweet record
And deed of charity.

For she was rich, and gave up all
To break the iron bands
Of those who waited in her hall,
And labored in her lands.

Long since beyond the Southern Sea
Their outbound sails have sped,
While she, in meek humility,
Now earns her daily bread.

It is their prayers, which never cease,
That clothe her with such grace;
Their blessing is the light of peace
That shines upon her face.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Beauty and Timelessness of Longfellow's "The Good Part, That Shall Not Be Taken Away"

When it comes to classic poetry, few poets come to mind as quickly as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Known for his romantic, sentimental style and his ability to weave in historical and cultural references, Longfellow has left a lasting impact on the world of literature. One of his most famous works is "The Good Part, That Shall Not Be Taken Away", a poem that captures the essence of love, loss, and perseverance. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the beauty and timelessness of Longfellow's work.

The Poem

Before we dive into the analysis, let's take a moment to appreciate the poem itself. "The Good Part, That Shall Not Be Taken Away" is a sonnet, meaning it has 14 lines and follows a strict rhyme scheme. Longfellow wrote this poem in memory of his second wife, Frances, who passed away in 1861. The poem was included in his collection "In the Harbor: Ultima Thule" which was published in 1880, a year after his death.

The poem begins with the speaker acknowledging the transience of life, stating that everything in this world is fleeting and will eventually pass away. However, there is one thing that can never be taken away: the love that exists between two people. Longfellow then goes on to describe this love as a "good part" that is not material but rather spiritual and eternal.

The speaker then reflects on the joy that this love has brought to their life, and how it has made even the most mundane moments feel special. They speak of how the memory of this love will continue to bring comfort and solace even after their loved one is gone. The poem ends with a powerful declaration of the speaker's commitment to this love, stating that they will continue to hold it close to their heart even in death.


Now that we have a basic understanding of the poem, let's dive into its deeper meaning. At its core, "The Good Part, That Shall Not Be Taken Away" is a meditation on the nature of love and its ability to transcend even the most painful experiences. Longfellow is acknowledging the inevitability of death and the fleeting nature of life, but he's also saying that there is something that is more powerful and everlasting than physical existence: love.

In the poem, Longfellow is not talking about love in a superficial or romanticized way. He's speaking about the kind of love that transcends physical beauty and pleasure, the kind of love that endures through hardship and loss. This is evident in lines 5-6 when he writes, "And yet love is not love / Which alters when it alteration finds." Longfellow is essentially saying that true love is not dependent on external circumstances, but rather it is an internal force that is unchanging and unwavering.

Another key theme in the poem is the idea of memory and how it can serve as a source of comfort and solace after loss. In lines 9-10, the speaker states, "But what has been shall not depart, / From the hearts that love has made." Here, Longfellow is saying that even though our loved ones may physically leave us, the memories of our time together and the love that we shared will always remain within us. These memories can serve as a source of comfort and healing, helping us to cope with the pain of loss.

Finally, the poem also touches on the idea of commitment and the power of the human spirit. In the final lines of the poem, the speaker declares their commitment to their love, stating that it will continue to live on even in death. Here, Longfellow is saying that even though physical death may separate us from our loved ones, our love for them can never truly die.

Literary Criticism

So what makes "The Good Part, That Shall Not Be Taken Away" such a timeless and beautiful poem? There are a few key elements that make this work stand out.

One of the most notable things about Longfellow's poetry is his ability to blend elements of the past and present in a way that feels natural and seamless. In "The Good Part, That Shall Not Be Taken Away", he does this by referencing biblical stories and classical literature while also speaking in a more modern language. For example, in line 3 he writes, "The things we see are fleeting, / And the things we feel are brief." This use of language that feels both timeless and contemporary helps to make the poem more accessible and relatable to modern readers.

Another strength of Longfellow's poetry is his ability to create vivid imagery through his use of language. In "The Good Part, That Shall Not Be Taken Away", he does this by describing the mundane moments of life in a way that makes them feel special and significant. For example, in lines 7-8 he writes, "And in the sunshine of a smile, / Heart feels its own blood leap awhile." This description of the simple act of smiling as being akin to sunshine is a beautiful and evocative image that captures the joy and warmth that love can bring.

Finally, Longfellow's use of structure and form in the sonnet is another element that enhances the power and beauty of the poem. The strict guidelines of the sonnet form help to give the poem a sense of order and structure, while also allowing Longfellow to play with language and rhyme in a way that feels natural and effortless.


In conclusion, "The Good Part, That Shall Not Be Taken Away" is a beautiful and timeless poem that speaks to the power of love and the resilience of the human spirit. Longfellow's use of language, imagery, and structure all work together to create a work of art that is both accessible and profound. This poem is a testament to the enduring nature of love, and a reminder that even in the face of loss and hardship, there is something within us that can never be taken away.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The world of poetry is a vast and beautiful one, filled with countless masterpieces that have stood the test of time. Among these, one particular poem stands out as a true gem of the genre - "The Good Part, That Shall Not Be Taken Away" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This classic piece of literature is a true testament to the power of words, and its message is as relevant today as it was when it was first written.

At its core, "The Good Part, That Shall Not Be Taken Away" is a poem about the importance of cherishing the things that truly matter in life. Longfellow begins by painting a picture of a world that is constantly changing and evolving, where everything is in a state of flux. He describes how "the world is full of change and sorrow," and how "the things we love the most are fleeting and ephemeral." In this context, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and lost, unsure of what to hold onto in the face of such constant upheaval.

But Longfellow offers a solution to this problem - he urges us to focus on the "good part" of life, the things that are truly important and that will never fade away. He writes, "Let us then be up and doing, / With a heart for any fate; / Still achieving, still pursuing, / Learn to labor and to wait." These lines are a call to action, a reminder that we must be proactive in our pursuit of happiness and fulfillment. We must work hard, stay focused, and never give up on our dreams.

But what exactly is the "good part" that Longfellow is referring to? It is, in essence, the intangible things that make life worth living - love, friendship, family, and community. These are the things that give us purpose and meaning, that make us feel connected to something greater than ourselves. Longfellow writes, "Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, / Is our destined end or way; / But to act, that each to-morrow / Find us farther than to-day." This is a powerful statement, one that reminds us that life is not just about experiencing pleasure or avoiding pain - it is about making a difference in the world, about leaving a positive impact on those around us.

One of the most striking aspects of "The Good Part, That Shall Not Be Taken Away" is its use of imagery and metaphor. Longfellow paints a vivid picture of the world around us, using language that is both beautiful and evocative. He writes, "Lives of great men all remind us / We can make our lives sublime, / And, departing, leave behind us / Footprints on the sands of time." This image of leaving footprints on the sand is a powerful one, symbolizing the idea that our actions have a lasting impact on the world. It is a reminder that we must strive to make our lives meaningful, to leave a positive legacy that will endure long after we are gone.

Another key theme of the poem is the idea of perseverance in the face of adversity. Longfellow acknowledges that life is not always easy, that there will be times when we face challenges and setbacks. But he urges us to stay strong, to keep pushing forward even when the going gets tough. He writes, "Trust no future, howe'er pleasant! / Let the dead past bury its dead! / Act, - act in the living present! / Heart within, and God o'erhead!" These lines are a powerful reminder that we must live in the present moment, that we must focus on what we can do right now to make a difference in the world.

In conclusion, "The Good Part, That Shall Not Be Taken Away" is a true masterpiece of poetry, a timeless work that speaks to the human experience in a profound and meaningful way. Longfellow's use of language and imagery is masterful, and his message is as relevant today as it was when he first wrote these words. This poem is a call to action, a reminder that we must focus on the things that truly matter in life - love, friendship, family, and community. It is a reminder that we must persevere in the face of adversity, that we must never give up on our dreams. And above all, it is a reminder that we must act, that we must make a difference in the world, leaving behind footprints on the sands of time that will endure long after we are gone.

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