'Curfew' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Solemnly, mournfully,
Dealing its dole,
The Curfew Bell
Is beginning to toll.

Cover the embers,
And put out the light;
Toil comes with the morning,
And rest with the night.

Dark grow the windows,
And quenched is the fire;
Sound fades into silence,--
All footsteps retire.

No voice in the chambers,
No sound in the hall!
Sleep and oblivion
Reign over all!


The book is completed,
And closed, like the day;
And the hand that has written it
Lays it away.

Dim grow its fancies;
Forgotten they lie;
Like coals in the ashes,
They darken and die.

Song sinks into silence,
The story is told,
The windows are darkened,
The hearth-stone is cold.

Darker and darker
The black shadows fall;
Sleep and oblivion
Reign over all.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Haunting Beauty of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Curfew"

As I first read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "Curfew," I was struck by its haunting beauty. The poem's language is rich, its imagery vivid, and its themes universal. It is a poem that speaks to the human experience across time and space, and it does so with a power and grace that is truly unforgettable.

The Poem's Structure and Language

At the most basic level, "Curfew" is a sonnet, with a strict rhyme scheme and meter. But it is more than that. Longfellow's use of language is masterful, drawing the reader into a world that is at once familiar and foreign. The poem is filled with images of darkness, death, and the passing of time, yet it is also infused with a sense of hope and redemption.

The opening lines set the stage for the poem's themes:

Solemnly, mournfully,
Dealing its dole,
The Curfew Bell
Is beginning to toll.

Longfellow's use of alliteration and repetition here creates a sense of heaviness and sorrow. The "dole" being dealt is a reference to the ringing of the bell as a signal that the day is done and it's time to sleep. But there's a deeper meaning here too. The "dole" is also a reminder of our own mortality, of the fact that we are all marching towards our own deaths.

Throughout the poem, Longfellow weaves together images of darkness, sleep, and death. But he also includes moments of light and hope. Consider these lines from the middle of the poem:

The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an Eagle in his flight.

Here, the darkness is not just a symbol of death, but also of rest and rejuvenation. The feather falling from the eagle's wing suggests a sense of grace and beauty, even in the darkest moments of life.

The Poem's Themes

At its core, "Curfew" is a meditation on the passing of time and the inevitability of death. Longfellow uses the image of the curfew bell as a reminder that our time on this earth is limited. But he also suggests that there is beauty and meaning to be found in that limited time.

One of the most striking elements of the poem is its attention to the natural world. Longfellow describes the stars, the moon, and the feather falling from the eagle's wing with a sense of wonder and awe. These moments of natural beauty serve as a counterpoint to the sadness and sorrow of the curfew bell.

Another important theme of the poem is the idea of rest and rejuvenation. Longfellow suggests that the darkness of night can be a time of renewal, a time to rest and gather strength for the new day. This idea is echoed in the final lines of the poem:

Sleep, sleep,
And let thy dreams
Be veil'd in dimness
Till the morning gleams.

Here, Longfellow is not just suggesting that we need sleep to function properly; he is also suggesting that sleep can be a time of healing and growth.

The Poem's Cultural Significance

"Curfew" was written in the mid-19th century, at a time when the United States was undergoing significant social and political change. Longfellow was a popular poet and public figure, and his work played an important role in shaping American culture.

At the same time, the themes of "Curfew" are universal. The poem speaks to our shared human experience, regardless of time or place. It is a reminder that we are all mortal, that our time on this earth is limited, and that we must find a way to make meaning and beauty in the face of that reality.


In the end, "Curfew" is a poem that is both beautiful and haunting. Longfellow's use of language and imagery creates a powerful sense of sadness and sorrow, but also a sense of hope and renewal. The poem's themes are universal, speaking to the human experience across time and space. It is a work of art that deserves to be read and appreciated by people of all ages and backgrounds.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Curfew: A Timeless Masterpiece by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the most celebrated poets of the 19th century, wrote a timeless masterpiece called "Poetry Curfew." This poem is a beautiful and poignant reflection on the power of poetry and its ability to inspire and uplift the human spirit. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and language of this classic poem.

The poem begins with the speaker describing the setting of the poem, which is a curfew bell ringing in the distance. The curfew bell was a common feature in medieval towns and cities, and it signaled the end of the day and the beginning of the night. The speaker then goes on to describe how the sound of the bell affects him, saying that it "fills his heart with a mournful pleasure."

The speaker then turns his attention to the power of poetry, saying that it has the ability to "lift the soul from the depths of sorrow." He goes on to describe how poetry can transport us to other worlds and other times, and how it can help us to understand the mysteries of life and death. The speaker also notes that poetry can inspire us to be better people, saying that it can "rouse the slumbering virtues into action."

The theme of the power of poetry is a central one in this poem, and Longfellow uses a variety of poetic devices to convey this theme. One of the most striking of these devices is the use of imagery. Longfellow uses vivid and evocative images to describe the power of poetry, such as when he says that it can "light the dark with a celestial ray." This image suggests that poetry has the power to illuminate even the darkest corners of our lives, and to bring hope and light where there was once only darkness.

Another important device that Longfellow uses in this poem is repetition. He repeats the phrase "Poetry curfew" several times throughout the poem, emphasizing the connection between the two. This repetition also serves to reinforce the idea that poetry has the power to bring order and structure to our lives, just as the curfew bell brings order and structure to the day.

The structure of the poem is also worth noting. It is written in free verse, which means that it does not follow a strict rhyme or meter. This gives the poem a more natural and conversational feel, and allows Longfellow to focus on the imagery and language of the poem rather than on strict poetic form. The poem is also divided into several stanzas, each of which focuses on a different aspect of the theme of the power of poetry.

The language of the poem is simple and direct, yet it is also rich and evocative. Longfellow uses a variety of literary devices, such as metaphor, simile, and personification, to convey the power of poetry. For example, he compares poetry to a "magic spell" that can transport us to other worlds, and he personifies the curfew bell, saying that it "tolls the knell of parting day."

Overall, "Poetry Curfew" is a beautiful and timeless poem that celebrates the power of poetry to inspire, uplift, and transform our lives. Longfellow's use of vivid imagery, repetition, and literary devices creates a powerful and evocative poem that speaks to the human spirit. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of poetry, and it continues to inspire and move readers to this day.

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