Introduction

The poem ‘Sunrise on the Hills’ presents the experience of the poet as he watches the sunrise amidst the hills. He describes the valley before him and the various beautiful scenes of nature that he sees. The beauty of nature brings peace to the poet’s mind. He advises us to find solace in nature too.

About the Poet

H.W. Longfellow (1807-1882) was an influential American poet, translator and professor at Harvard University. During his lifetime, Longfellow was considered the best of all American poets, and his work was widely translated and published in various other languages.

Theme

The main theme of the poem is the beauty of nature. The poet watches the sunrise from the hills, and sees nature wake up with the sun. The beauty of nature is healing and has an enchanting effect on him.

Stanza 1

I stood upon the hills, when heaven’s wide arch
Was glorious with the sun’s returning march,
And woods were brightened, and soft gales
Went forth to kiss the sun-clad vales.
The clouds were far beneath me; bathed in light,
They gathered midway round the wooded height,
And, in their fading glory, shone
Like hosts in battle overthrown.
As many a pinnacle, with shifting glance,
Through the gray mist thrust up its shattered lance,
And rocking on the cliff was left
The dark pine blasted, bare, and cleft.
The veil of cloud was lifted, and below
Glowed the rich valley, and the river’s flow
Was darkened by the forest’s shade,
Or glistened in the white cascade;
Where upward, in the mellow blush of day,
The noisy bittern wheeled his spiral way.

The poet stood upon the hills. The sky, which he calls “heaven’s wide arc”, looked glorious with the sunrise. The woods were brightened with the sun’s return, and soft gales or winds went forward to kiss the sunlit valley. The clouds were far beneath where the poet stood. They were covered in light and gathered around the woods.

As the clouds faded, they looked like defeated soldiers in a battle who were slowly retreating from the battlefield. The tops or pinnacles of many trees could be seen through the gray mist as the clouds disappeared. The poet noticed that the dark pine trees rocking on the cliff were bare, ruined and broken. When the clouds finally disappeared, the rich valley below glowed in the light of the rising sun.

The river water looked dark because of the shadows of trees, but it glistened in the white waterfall. Upward, in the mellow light of day, a noisy bitterness could be sensed. As the sun rose and morning approached at last, humans and their noisiness made an appearance too.

Stanza 2

I heard the distant waters dash,
I saw the current whirl and flash,
And richly, by the blue lake’s silver beach,
The woods were bending with a silent reach.
Then o’er the vale, with gentle swell,
The music of the village bell
Came sweetly to the echo-giving hills;
And the wild horn, whose voice the woodland fills,
Was ringing to the merry shout,
That faint and far the glen sent out,
Where, answering to the sudden shot, thin smoke,
Through thick-leaved branches, from the dingle broke.

The poet heard the sound of distant waters dashing and saw the river current whirl and shine. By the blue lake’s silver beach, trees bent towards the water silently. Then gently the music of the village bell rang over the valley and sweetly echoed across the hills, The sound of the wild horn filled the woodland, responding to the merry shout of the village bell that rang far and faint across the valley.

As if answering the sudden shot of the wild horn, thin smoke emerged from the thick leaved branches in the forest.

Stanza 3

If thou art worn and hard beset
With sorrows that thou wouldst forget,
If thou wouldst read a lesson, that will keep
Thy heart from fainting and thy soul from sleep,
Go to the woods and hills! No tears
Dim the sweet look that Nature wears.

The poet says that if we are exhausted and going through hard times, and have sorrows we would like to forget, we should go to the woods and hills. If we would like to read a lesson that will keep our heart from fainting and our soul from sleep, we should visit nature. No tears or sadness can dim the sweet look that Nature has.