POEM: The Village Blacksmith By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
About the poet
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (February 27, 1807 – March 24, 1882) was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline. He was also the first American to translate Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, and was one of the five Fireside Poets.
Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine, which was then a part of Massachusetts. He studied at Bowdoin College. After spending time in Europe he became a professor at Bowdoin and, later, at Harvard College. His first major poetry collections were Voices of the Night (1839) and Ballads and Other Poems (1841).
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Village Blacksmith” emphasizes how the life and work of a common working man can provide an example of persistence and accomplishment in spite of trials and tragedies. The poem is developed in eight stanzas of six ballad-like lines of alternating iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter.
The poem begins by picturing the site of blacksmith’s workplace as “Under a spreading chestnut-tree,” then specifically describes the smith himself as a man made strong by his work: “mighty,” with “brawny arms strong as iron bands.” The smith’s physical appearance continues to be the focus in stanza 2. He wears his black hair “long.” He is “tan” from working outside in the sun. More important, however, his character can now be revealed. He is “honest,” willing to do any type of work, and “owes not any man.”
The third stanza centers on how important the smith’s work is to village society. All year long, people can “hear” the “bellows blow” and the regular beat of “his heavy sledge.” The sounding rhythms of his workplace are as central to the villagers as the tolling of the church bell when the “evening sun is low.” In stanza 4, even children realize the significance of the blacksmith as they stop to watch the smith work on their way “home from school” and enjoy the excitement of “the flaming forge,” “the roaring bellows,” and the “burning sparks.”
The poem moves away from the blacksmith’s workplace to the town church in the fifth stanza. With his children, the widowed smith listens to the “parson pray and preach” and to “his daughter’s voice,/ Singing in the village choir.” Although the service “makes his heart rejoice,” in stanza 6 the sound of his daughter’s singing reminds him of his wife’s “voice,/ Singing in Paradise,” her death, and the “grave,” which cause him to shed a tear because of life’s trials.
Stanzas 7 and 8 summarize the message of the blacksmith’s example. His life is a mixture of ordinary human experience: “Toiling,—rejoicing,—sorrowing.” Yet he persists, regardless, accomplishing something every day, thus deserving “a night’s repose.” Just as the blacksmith’s life has been shaped by meeting and facing life events, so each person must be willing to continue on with life formed “at the flaming forge” with “Each burning deed and thought” shaped at the “sounding anvil.”
I. Answer with reference to context:
1. Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.
(a) What is the poet trying to convey?
(b) What kind of tools does he use? Explain the phrase ‘evening sun is low’?
2. He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter’s voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.
(a) Now what is the blacksmith trying to show? Does he sound convincing?
(b) What are the normal chores he indulges in?
(c) Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought.
(a) Who is the poet thanking and why?
(b) What important lesson did the blacksmith teach him?
(c) Explain ‘our fortunes must be wrought’?
II. Answer the following questions briefly:
1.Do you admire the blacksmith? Explain
2.Why is the blacksmith able to look the whole world in the face?
3.What is Longfellow’s message in his poem and is this message still relevant today?
4. What are the three physical characteristics of the village blacksmith in “The Village Blacksmith?
III. Choose the correct answer from the options given below:
1. Why does his daughter’s voice make his heart rejoice?
(a) because it sounds like her mother’s voice
(b)because she sounds like a nightingale
(c)because she sounds like a famous singer
2. Which details tell you that the blacksmith is an honest, hard-working man?
(a) Week in, week out, from morning till night, you can hear his bellows blow.
(b)The smith, a mighty man is he, with large and sinewy hands;
(c)He goes on Sunday to the church
3. What does the tear in his eye indicate about him?
(a) It shows that he was a weak man
(b)That he doesn’t want to cry aloud
(c)This indicates that he is sad about his wife’s death.