'Sound Of The Sea, The' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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The sea awoke at midnight from its sleep,
And round the pebbly beaches far and wide
I heard the first wave of the rising tide
Rush onward with uninterrupted sweep;
A voice out of the silence of the deep,
A sound mysteriously multiplied
As of a cataract from the mountain's side,
Or roar of winds upon a wooded steep.
So comes to us at times, from the unknown
And inaccessible solitudes of being,
The rushing of the sea-tides of the soul;
And inspirations, that we deem our own,
Are some divine foreshadowing and foreseeing
Of things beyond our reason or control.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Beauty of the Sea as Explored in Longfellow’s Poetry

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is one of the most celebrated poets in American literature. His works have a timeless quality that continue to resonate with contemporary readers. One of his most famous poems is “The Sound of the Sea,” which captures the beauty and majesty of the ocean in poetic form. In this essay, we will explore Longfellow’s use of language, imagery, and symbolism to create a vivid portrait of the sea.

The Setting

“The Sound of the Sea” is set on a beach at night, where the speaker is listening to the waves crashing against the shore. This setting serves as a metaphor for the vastness and power of the sea, which is a central theme of the poem. Longfellow uses language that evokes the sense of being in this setting, such as “the moaning of the sea” and “the foam of the breakers.”

The Language

Longfellow’s use of language in this poem is particularly noteworthy. He employs sound devices such as alliteration, assonance, and onomatopoeia to create a musical effect. For example, the line “And the waves of the sea are rolling” contains both alliteration and assonance, as well as a repetition of the “s” sound, which creates a sense of the waves rolling in a continuous motion.

Longfellow also uses metaphors and similes to describe the sea. He compares the waves to “white-maned horses,” which gives them a sense of power and strength. He also describes the sea as a “mighty organ,” which suggests its vastness and complexity.

The Imagery

The imagery in “The Sound of the Sea” is rich and evocative. Longfellow uses vivid descriptions of the sea to create a sensory experience for the reader. For example, he describes the “gleaming sands” that reflect the moonlight, and the “white foam” that is left behind by the waves.

Longfellow also uses imagery to create a sense of movement in the poem. He describes the waves “breaking” and “surging,” which gives them a sense of energy and motion. This movement is further emphasized by the repetition of the word “rolling” throughout the poem.

The Symbolism

Longfellow uses symbolism to suggest deeper meanings beyond the literal description of the sea. For example, the sea can be seen as a symbol of nature’s power and majesty. It is a force that is beyond human control, and its vastness and complexity are awe-inspiring. The sea can also be seen as a symbol of the unconscious mind, which is vast and mysterious.

Another symbol in the poem is the moon, which is described as “a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.” The moon can be seen as a symbol of change and transformation, as it waxes and wanes in a never-ending cycle. It can also be seen as a symbol of the unknown, as it is shrouded in mystery and has been the subject of myth and legend for centuries.

The Theme

The central theme of “The Sound of the Sea” is the beauty and power of nature. Longfellow celebrates the majesty of the sea, and suggests that it is a force that is beyond human understanding. He also suggests that the sea is a source of inspiration and wonder, and that it has the power to transform the human spirit.


In conclusion, “The Sound of the Sea” is a beautiful and evocative poem that captures the mystery and majesty of the ocean. Longfellow’s use of language, imagery, and symbolism creates a rich and complex portrait of the sea that is both awe-inspiring and humbling. The poem celebrates the beauty and power of nature, and suggests that the sea has the power to transform the human spirit. It is a timeless work of literature that continues to inspire and move readers today.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The sound of the sea is a timeless and captivating phenomenon that has inspired countless poets and writers throughout history. One such poet is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who penned the classic poem "The Sound of the Sea." This poem is a beautiful and evocative ode to the power and majesty of the ocean, and it has resonated with readers for generations.

At its core, "The Sound of the Sea" is a celebration of the natural world and the beauty that can be found in even the most tumultuous and unpredictable of environments. Longfellow begins the poem by describing the sound of the sea as "a mournful melody," which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The use of the word "mournful" suggests a sense of sadness or loss, and this is reinforced by the subsequent lines, which describe the "wild and restless" waves that crash against the shore.

Despite this initial sense of melancholy, however, Longfellow's poem is ultimately a celebration of the sea and all its wonders. He describes the "mighty ocean" as a "glorious mirror" that reflects the beauty of the world around it, and he marvels at the way in which the waves "roll in triumph" as they crash against the shore. This sense of triumph and power is a recurring theme throughout the poem, and it is perhaps best encapsulated in the line "the sea is mighty, but a mightier sways."

This line is particularly interesting because it suggests that even the seemingly unstoppable force of the ocean is subject to a higher power. Longfellow is not necessarily suggesting that there is a divine force at work here, but rather that there is a sense of order and balance in the natural world that transcends even the most powerful of forces. This is a theme that is explored throughout the poem, as Longfellow describes the way in which the sea "roars with its restless voice" but is ultimately subject to the ebb and flow of the tides.

One of the most striking aspects of "The Sound of the Sea" is the way in which Longfellow uses language to evoke the sensory experience of being near the ocean. He describes the "salt sea-spray" that mingles with the air, and the "sea-birds" that cry out as they soar over the waves. These descriptions are vivid and evocative, and they help to transport the reader to the very edge of the shore.

Another interesting aspect of the poem is the way in which Longfellow uses repetition to reinforce certain themes and ideas. For example, he repeats the phrase "the sea is mighty" several times throughout the poem, each time adding a new layer of meaning and nuance. This repetition helps to create a sense of rhythm and momentum, and it also serves to reinforce the central message of the poem: that the sea is a powerful and awe-inspiring force that demands our respect and admiration.

Overall, "The Sound of the Sea" is a beautiful and evocative poem that celebrates the power and majesty of the ocean. Longfellow's use of language is masterful, and his descriptions of the sensory experience of being near the sea are both vivid and compelling. Whether you are a lover of poetry or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of the natural world, this poem is sure to leave a lasting impression.

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