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Poetry Analysis Notes



 

The Arrow and the Song
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
interpreted by Magali Denard

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of a song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.


Poet: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on February 27, 1807, in Portland, Maine. He attended Bowdoin College and graduated in 1825. During his college years his poems were already appearing in several national magazines. He was especially good at languages and was offered a professorship in modern languages, if he would study in Europe. While he was in Europe, he learned French, Italian, and Spanish, but never stayed at one university for very long. When he came back to the United States, in 1829, he became a librarian and a professor. He disliked his job, but was soon offered a professorship from Harvard along with a chance to travel once again. This time, he visited Sweden, Germany, England, And the Netherlands. After the death of his first wife he moved to Heidelburg, Germany, Where he was greatly influenced by the German Romanticists. Later, he returned to Harvard and there was in charge of the language program for 18 years. The death of his second wife resulted in his writing many of his most famous poems, such as "Paul Revere's Ride." Longfellow died in 1882, on March 24, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has been said to have been the most popular United States poet of the 1800's.

Vocabulary: Keen - having or marked by intellectual quickness and acuity.

Type of poem:
Lyric

Speaker: The speaker is presumably the poet.

Audience:
The audience is general.

Tone: This poem's tone is awed, joyful, inspired.

Meaning:
The poet is making an analogy, comparing the arrow to real life, and the song to feelings. He wishes to convey to his audience that although the arrow/real life is usually visible to the eye, the song/feelings are not any less real just because they are invisible. He even insinuates that real life and feelings can sometimes merge together into one entity.

Structure of poem: The poem is made up of 3 stanzas of 4 lines each

Examples of poetic techniques used in the poem:

Arrow/Real Life & Song/Feelings Analogy

Connection between the poem and the poet's life and/or times: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was continually traveling and meeting new people. He probably was relating his relationships with other people to a broader subject to get his point across.

Most memorable quote from the poem:
"Long, long afterward, in an oak/ I found the arrow, still unbroke"


© Smelli Notes 2001