Deep In the Quiet Wood Poem by James Weldon Johnson Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English


The poem “Deepi in the Quiet Woods” is written by James Weldon Johnson. The poem talks about finding peace in nature. The poet urges the readers to leave the hardships of daily life behind and find a moment of solitude in the “peaceful woods”. The poet finds an escape, from the trials and tribulation of monotonous daily life, in the woods of a fantasy world. The speaker talks about how the woods allow the tired spirits to run free and find inner peace at last. The poem allows the readers to find out their priorities in life and reconsider what they need for a peaceful and happy life.

About the poet

James Weldon Johnson was born in 1871 in Florida, USA. He was an author, poet and civil rights activist. He was a leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1917. He was a prominent voice in the Harlem Renaissance. He wrote “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, also known as the Negro National Anthem.


The poem is composed of 14 lines. It is not written in multiple stanzas. The poem can be considered a loose sonnet as it is made up of 14 lines but does not follow any rhyme scheme.

Lines 1-7

Are you bowed down in heart?

Do you but hear the clashing discords and the din of life?

Then come away, come to the peaceful wood,

Here bathe your soul in silence. Listen! Now,

From out the palpitating solitude

Do you not catch, yet faint, elusive strains?

They are above, around, within you, everywhere.


The poem starts by the speaker asking someone if they are feeling tired in the heart. He asks if the only thing they can hear is the clashing and chaotic sound of everyday life. The spear says that if it is the case then they should come to the peaceful woods and let the silence surround them. The speaker says that in the silence the person can hear a faint and elusive melody coming from everywhere at once.


The poem begins with the poet asking an unknown listener rhetorical questions. The poet could be directly addressing the reader or someone else. The poet asks the questions about the listener’s daily life. He asks if they have been “bowed down in heart”. “Bowed down” means to feel lazy or lethargic because of tiredness. The poet is asking the listener if they feel tired in their heart. The second rhetorical question talks about how the only sound the listener can hear is the clashing and clamoring sound of everyday life. They can not hear anything other than the chaotic sound of life. In the next lines the poet gives a solution to the listener. He invites them to come to the peaceful woods. By being surrounded by nature, the poet believes that the listener will be able to find some peace. In the woods the listener will be completely surrounded by silence. This silence will allow them to hear a faint melody. The music, the listener will find out, comes from everywhere; from above, below, everywhere around and even from within. The poet says that this sound is the sound of peace and silence that one can only find when they leave the hustle bustle of life and find themselves in nature.

Lines 8-14

Silently listen! Clear, and still more clear, they come.

They bubble up in rippling notes, and swell in singing tones.

Now let your soul run the whole gamut of the wondrous scale

Until, responsive to the tonic chord,

It touches the diapason of God’s grand cathedral organ,

Filling earth for you with heavenly peace

And holy harmonies.


The speaker wants the listener to carefully listen to the musical notes and says that they become clearer and turn into notes and singing tones. These notes and tones will free up the listener’s soul and allow it to run free all over the world. The soul, just like the rising notes will rise and touch the grand musical instrument in God’s cathedral. This will fill the listener’s life with heavenly peace and a sense of harmony in life.


The poet instructs the listener to be silent and listen to the music. Slowly and slowly the music will become clear and turn into notes and tones swelling higher and higher. In these lines the poet talks about how the silence of mind and heart allows the person to listen to the music and harmony of the world better and find peace. This will allow the spirit of the person to finally be free and run wild all across the world.

According to the poet, the soul of the listener will rise higher and higher along with the swelling notes and ascend to the heavenly plane. The soul will find spirituality and touch the “Diana son of God’s grand cathedral organ”. In this line the poet highlights the spiritual aspect of the experience. This is the way to set one’s soul free from the trivialities of ordinary life and find peace and harmony in nature.