'Loss And Gain' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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When I compare
What I have lost with what I have gained,
What I have missed with what attained,
Little room do I find for pride.

I am aware
How many days have been idly spent;
How like an arrow the good intent
Has fallen short or been turned aside.

But who shall dare
To measure loss and gain in this wise?
Defeat may be victory in disguise;
The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, Loss And Gain: A Deep Dive

Oh boy, where do I even begin with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Poetry, Loss And Gain"? This poem is a masterpiece. A true work of art that speaks to the soul of every reader. Longfellow's use of language and imagery is simply breathtaking. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will delve deep into the poem and explore its themes, structure, and literary devices.


The central theme of "Poetry, Loss And Gain" is the power of poetry to heal, comfort, and inspire. Longfellow starts the poem by describing the bleakness of his surroundings, but then he turns to poetry and finds solace in it. He writes:

Then read from the treasured volume The poem of thy choice, And lend to the rhyme of the poet The beauty of thy voice.

Here, Longfellow is urging the reader to turn to poetry in times of trouble. He is saying that poetry has the power to transport us to another world, to make us forget our worries and troubles, and to help us find meaning in life. Longfellow himself was a great believer in the power of poetry, and he often turned to it in times of grief.

Another important theme of the poem is the idea of loss and gain. Longfellow writes about the things he has lost in life, such as the "friends of my youth" and the "joyous prime" of his life. But he also writes about the things he has gained, such as his love for poetry and the solace it brings him. He writes:

And O, if thou wouldst read aright, Of joy and grief a light Within thy heart would burn alway, As if thou too hadst heard The blind old man of Scio's tale, Or the Olynthian's grave!

Here, Longfellow is saying that if we read poetry with an open heart, we can find joy and meaning even in the midst of grief and loss. He is saying that poetry can help us to see the world in a new way, to find beauty in the midst of ugliness, and to find hope in the midst of despair.


The structure of "Poetry, Loss And Gain" is fairly simple. It consists of three stanzas, each with four lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, and the meter is iambic tetrameter. The simplicity of the structure belies the complexity of the poem's themes and imagery.

Longfellow uses repetition throughout the poem to reinforce his message. He repeats the phrase "Read from some treasured volume" in the first and third stanzas, emphasizing the importance of reading poetry. He also repeats the word "gain" in the second and third stanzas, highlighting the idea of gain in the midst of loss.

Literary Devices

Longfellow employs several literary devices in "Poetry, Loss And Gain" to create a powerful and evocative poem. One of the most striking devices he uses is imagery. He paints vivid pictures of the world around him, such as the "bare and naked room" and the "drifting sea-sands." He also uses metaphor and simile to make his point. He compares the beauty of poetry to the "voice of one who sings" and the "light of setting suns." He compares the joy of reading poetry to the "gleam of the morning star" and the "echo of a lute."

Another literary device Longfellow employs is allusion. He references the "blind old man of Scio's tale" and the "Olynthian's grave," both of which are from Greek mythology. By doing so, he connects his poem to a rich cultural tradition and emphasizes the universality of his message.

Longfellow also uses personification in the poem. He describes poetry as having a "voice" and a "beauty," which makes it seem almost like a living thing. By doing so, he emphasizes the power and importance of poetry in our lives.


So, what does all of this mean? What is Longfellow trying to tell us in "Poetry, Loss And Gain"? At its core, the poem is a celebration of the power of poetry to heal and inspire us. Longfellow is saying that no matter what troubles we face in life, we can always turn to poetry for comfort and solace. He is saying that poetry has the power to transform us, to help us see the world in a new way, and to find joy and meaning even in the midst of grief and loss.

But Longfellow is also acknowledging the reality of loss and pain in our lives. He is saying that we cannot escape the sorrows of life, but we can find a way to cope with them. We can turn to poetry and find beauty and meaning even in the midst of suffering.

Ultimately, "Poetry, Loss And Gain" is a deeply moving and uplifting poem that speaks to the universal human experience. Longfellow's message is as relevant today as it was when he wrote the poem over 150 years ago. In a world that can often seem bleak and hopeless, poetry reminds us that there is beauty and joy to be found if we are willing to look for it.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Loss and Gain: A Poetic Journey of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the renowned American poet, is known for his masterful use of language and his ability to capture the essence of human emotions in his works. One of his most famous poems, Loss and Gain, is a beautiful exploration of the journey of life and the inevitable losses and gains that come with it.

The poem begins with the speaker reflecting on the losses he has experienced in his life. He speaks of the things he has lost, such as his youth, his friends, and his loved ones. He describes the pain and sorrow that comes with these losses, but also acknowledges that they are a natural part of life.

The speaker then turns his attention to the gains he has experienced. He speaks of the love and joy he has found in his life, and the memories he has created with those he loves. He acknowledges that these gains have come at a cost, but that they are worth it.

Throughout the poem, Longfellow uses vivid imagery and powerful language to convey the emotions of the speaker. He uses metaphors such as “the leaves of the forest when Summer is green” to describe the fleeting nature of life, and “the snows of the winter when Summer is fled” to describe the inevitability of death.

Longfellow also uses repetition to emphasize the theme of loss and gain. The phrase “And the night shall be filled with music, And the cares that infest the day, Shall fold their tents like the Arabs, And as silently steal away” is repeated throughout the poem, creating a sense of rhythm and continuity.

The poem ends with the speaker reflecting on the journey of life as a whole. He acknowledges that there will be both losses and gains, but that it is important to embrace them both. He speaks of the beauty and wonder of life, and the importance of cherishing every moment.

Loss and Gain is a timeless poem that speaks to the human experience. It reminds us that life is a journey filled with both joy and sorrow, and that it is important to embrace both. Longfellow’s use of language and imagery creates a powerful and emotional journey that resonates with readers to this day.

In conclusion, Loss and Gain is a beautiful and poignant poem that captures the essence of the human experience. Longfellow’s masterful use of language and imagery creates a powerful and emotional journey that speaks to readers of all ages. It is a reminder that life is a journey filled with both losses and gains, and that it is important to embrace them both.

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