'Footsteps of Angels' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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When the hours of Day are numbered,
And the voices of the Night
Wake the better soul, that slumbered,
To a holy, calm delight;
Ere the evening lamps are lighted,
And, like phantoms grim and tall,
Shadows from the fitful firelight
Dance upon the parlor wall;
Then the forms of the departed
Enter at the open door;
The beloved, the true-hearted,
Come to visit me once more;
He, the young and strong, who cherished
Noble longings for the strife,
By the roadside fell and perished,
Weary with the march of life!
They, the holy ones and weakly,
Who the cross of suffering bore,
Folded their pale hands so meekly,
Spake with us on earth no more!
And with them the Being Beauteous,
Who unto my youth was given,
More than all things else to love me,
And is now a saint in heaven.
With a slow and noiseless footstep
Comes that messenger divine,
Takes the vacant chair beside me,
Lays her gentle hand in mine.
And she sits and gazes at me
With those deep and tender eyes,
Like the stars, so still and saint-like,
Looking downward from the skies.
Uttered not, yet comprehended,
Is the spirit's voiceless prayer,
Soft rebukes, in blessings ended,
Breathing from her lips of air.
Oh, though oft depressed and lonely,
All my fears are laid aside,
If I but remember only
Such as these have lived and died!
Editor 1 Interpretation
Footsteps of Angels by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation
Footsteps of Angels is a beautiful and poignant poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the most beloved and revered American poets of the 19th century. In this essay, I will analyze and interpret the poem, exploring its themes, tone, and imagery, and discussing its significance in the context of Longfellow's body of work.
Overview of the Poem
Footsteps of Angels is a short poem consisting of six stanzas, each containing four lines. It was first published in 1849, as part of Longfellow's collection entitled "The Seaside and the Fireside". The poem is written in iambic tetrameter, which means that each line contains four iambs, or metrical feet, with the stress falling on the second syllable of each foot. This gives the poem a gentle and rhythmic quality, which is in keeping with its ethereal subject matter.
The poem begins with a description of the footsteps of angels, which are said to be so light and soft that they leave no trace behind. The speaker then imagines that these footsteps must be heard in the stillness of the night, when all other sounds are hushed. He goes on to suggest that these footsteps are a symbol of the presence of angels, who are always watching over us, even when we are not aware of their presence.
In the second stanza, the speaker describes how the footsteps of angels can be heard in the rustling of leaves, the murmuring of streams, and the sighing of the wind. He suggests that nature itself is a kind of angelic presence, reminding us of the beauty and wonder of the world around us.
The third stanza is a meditation on the transience of life, and the fleeting nature of human existence. The speaker reflects on how quickly time passes, and how we are all destined to pass away and be forgotten. He suggests that the only thing that endures is the memory of our love, which can be felt even after we are gone.
In the fourth stanza, the speaker returns to the theme of angelic protection, imagining that the angels watch over us as we sleep, and guard us from harm. He suggests that we should take comfort in this knowledge, and trust in the goodness of the world.
The fifth stanza is a call to action, urging us to live our lives with kindness and compassion, and to spread love and joy wherever we go. The speaker suggests that this is the only way to ensure that our memory will be cherished after we are gone, and that our lives will have had meaning and purpose.
Finally, in the sixth and last stanza, the speaker returns to the image of the footsteps of angels, suggesting that they are a sign of hope and comfort, reminding us that even in the darkest of times, we are not alone.
The poem explores a number of themes, including the presence of angels, the transience of life, the power of memory, the importance of love and compassion, and the comfort of hope. At its core, however, the poem is a meditation on the mysteries of existence, and the way in which we seek to make sense of the world around us. It suggests that there is a kind of beauty and wonder in the world that transcends our understanding, and that this is something that we can feel and experience, even if we cannot fully explain it.
The tone of the poem is gentle, reflective, and contemplative. There is a sense of wonder and awe in the speaker's words, as he reflects on the presence of angels and the beauty of the natural world. At the same time, there is a kind of melancholy that runs through the poem, as the speaker reflects on the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death. Overall, however, the tone is one of comfort and reassurance, as the speaker suggests that there is a kind of divine protection that watches over us, and that we are never truly alone.
The imagery in the poem is rich and evocative, drawing on the natural world to suggest the presence of angels and the mysteries of existence. The image of the footsteps of angels is particularly powerful, suggesting a kind of ethereal presence that is at once comforting and mysterious. The image of nature as a kind of angelic presence is also striking, reminding us of the beauty and wonder of the world around us, even in the midst of our daily lives.
Footsteps of Angels is a poignant and beautiful poem that speaks to the universal human experience of seeking meaning and purpose in the world around us. It is a meditation on the mysteries of existence, and the way in which we seek to make sense of the world through the lens of our own experiences and beliefs. The poem is significant in the context of Longfellow's body of work, as it reflects his lifelong interest in the spiritual and transcendent, and his belief in the power of love and compassion to shape the world around us.
In conclusion, Footsteps of Angels is a powerful and moving poem that speaks to the most fundamental aspects of the human experience. It is a reflection on the mysteries of existence, the transience of life, and the comfort of hope, and it speaks to our enduring belief in the presence of something greater than ourselves. Through its rich imagery, evocative language, and gentle tone, the poem reminds us of the beauty and wonder of the world around us, and offers us a sense of comfort and reassurance in the face of life's greatest mysteries.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry has the power to transport us to another world, to make us feel emotions we never knew existed, and to inspire us to be better versions of ourselves. One such poem that has stood the test of time is "Footsteps of Angels" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This classic poem is a beautiful ode to the angels that watch over us, guiding us through life's ups and downs. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and language used in this masterpiece of poetry.
The poem begins with the speaker describing how, as a child, they used to hear the footsteps of angels in their dreams. The angels would come to them in their sleep, whispering words of comfort and guidance. The speaker then goes on to describe how, as they grew older, they stopped hearing the footsteps of angels. They became too busy with the cares of the world, and the angels seemed to fade away.
This theme of the loss of innocence and the fading of childhood dreams is a common one in literature, but Longfellow handles it with a deft touch. He doesn't dwell on the sadness of the loss, but instead focuses on the hope that the angels will return. The speaker says that they still believe in the angels, even though they can no longer hear their footsteps. This belief is what gives them hope and strength to face the challenges of life.
The second stanza of the poem is a beautiful description of the angels themselves. Longfellow uses vivid imagery to paint a picture of these celestial beings. He describes them as "beautiful and bright," with "wings on their shoulders, and light on their feet." The angels are not just ethereal beings, but they are also powerful and strong. They are able to lift the speaker up and carry them through the trials of life.
The third stanza of the poem is where Longfellow really shines. He uses language to create a sense of movement and rhythm that mirrors the footsteps of the angels. The lines are short and staccato, with a strong emphasis on the first syllable of each word. This creates a sense of urgency and excitement, as if the angels are right there with the speaker, urging them on.
The fourth stanza of the poem is a call to action. The speaker urges us to listen for the footsteps of angels in our own lives. They remind us that the angels are always there, even if we can't hear them. We just need to be open to their guidance and willing to follow their lead.
The final stanza of the poem is a beautiful conclusion to this ode to the angels. The speaker says that even though they can no longer hear the footsteps of angels, they still believe in them. They know that the angels are watching over them, guiding them through life's journey. The poem ends with the beautiful line, "For every sigh and every tear, He gives us angels to hear."
In terms of structure, "Footsteps of Angels" is a simple poem. It consists of five stanzas, each with four lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, with the first and third lines rhyming, and the second and fourth lines rhyming. This simple structure allows Longfellow to focus on the language and imagery of the poem, without getting bogged down in complex rhyme schemes or meter.
The language used in "Footsteps of Angels" is simple and straightforward, but it is also beautiful and evocative. Longfellow uses vivid imagery to create a sense of the angels' beauty and power. He also uses language to create a sense of movement and rhythm that mirrors the footsteps of the angels. This creates a sense of excitement and urgency that draws the reader in and makes them feel as if they are right there with the speaker, listening for the footsteps of angels.
In conclusion, "Footsteps of Angels" is a beautiful ode to the angels that watch over us. Longfellow's use of language and imagery creates a sense of beauty and power that is both inspiring and comforting. The poem reminds us that even though we may not always be able to hear the footsteps of angels, they are always there, guiding us through life's journey. This is a timeless message that is as relevant today as it was when Longfellow wrote this classic poem over a century ago.
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