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The Village Blacksmith” is a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, first published in 1840. The poem describes a local blacksmith and his daily life. The blacksmith serves as a role model who balances his job with the role he plays with his family and community. Years after its publication, a tree mentioned in the poem was cut down and part of it was made into an armchair which was then presented to Longfellow by local schoolchildren.
About the poet
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet and educator who was a famous figure in America during the 19th century. By the time of the 1850s, he gained fame, and his poems became famous worldwide. He is known for his romantic imagery poems and the dual meaning behind them. He can see through the very mundane of the activities and connect them with the truth of life. His all poems have some connection of ordinary things with a larger picture.
Henry Wadsworth reflects the themes of nature, optimism, and individuality in many ways. Henry described the village blacksmith with optimism, nature, and individuality to make this poem. The blacksmith’s daily life and hard work made his individuality and optimism for his job. Longfellow has created a beautiful comparison between the works of the blacksmith with how we mold our future in our hands.
The poet has given a close observation of the life of a normal village blacksmith and compared it to the idea of one being the master of his fate. He explains the life of the blacksmith, who breaks and burns the metal and molds it. Similarly, in our life, failures are breaking points, where there is something new and better in process of formation. Hence, we need to work hard to make our life and keep moving forward without losing hope in life.
Under a spreading chestnut-tree The village smithy stands; The smith, a mighty man is he, With large and sinewy hands; And the muscles of his brawny arms Are strong as iron bands.
The poet here describes the appearance of the village blacksmith in the village by talking about his physique and how strong his arms look. The poet gives a description of his strong arms and muscles, which is a result of the hard work that he does being a blacksmith, and which frames his body like this.
His hair is crisp, and black, and long, His face is like the tan; His brow is wet with honest sweat, He earns whate'er he can, And looks the whole world in the face, For he owes not any man.
The poet gives some details of his appearance in the poem, he says that his hair is black, crisp, and long, which comes from dwelling in the sun all day long harsh sunrays tan his face during the day. He is sweating from the hard work that he is doing. He is proud and dignified as he is an honest man, and he earns his living in honesty. Hence, he is not afraid of anyone.
These all are the marker of his hard work, which makes his body rough and strong. However, he is a man who is not affected by his poor and harsh condition to fall into temptations of cheating and unfair business. The blacksmith is a nobleman who does his business honestly.
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.
The poet now says how hard the village blacksmith works day and night, with his bellow and tools. One can hear the blows from his bellow, and him dragging his heavy sleigh. He dwells from sunrise to sunset every day.
And children coming home from school Look in at the open door; They love to see the flaming forge, And hear the bellows roar, And catch the burning sparks that fly Like chaff from a threshing-floor.
The poet is speaking about how the children are mesmerized by his work. They are excited to look through the open door, to see the sparks flying from the flames, and his bellow hitting the metal. They love to see how the flames and the sparks are forming shapes in the air.
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.
In these lines, the poet is trying to show that the blacksmith is also a part of the society, where he participates in the social practices and customs. He goes to the church on Sundays and sits with his friends. He watches his daughter singing in the choir and he feels happy.
It sounds to him like her mother's voice, Singing in Paradise! He needs must think of her once more, How in the grave she lies; And with his hard, rough hand he wipes A tear out of his eyes.
He gets emotional as he sees his daughter singing in the choir, which reminds him of his wife. His wife passed away, and he is remembering her singing for him. He sees an image or reflection of his wife in his daughter. He finds her voice and singing divine, which brings tears to his eyes. These lines show the noble character of the blacksmith and his love for his family.
Toiling,--rejoicing,--sorrowing, Onward through life he goes; Each morning sees some task begin, Each evening sees it close Something attempted, something done, Has earned a night's repose.
And hence he lives his life like this, toiling for his living, rejoicing with his friends and daughter, remembering his wife and her memories. He begins his work in the morning and dwells till night to earn his living.
He would try to attempt to do something new, and some work he would complete for the day, and some he would think to finish the next day. These lines mean that the blacksmith dwells with work that is the similar work of a lot of thoughtless physical work. He is following similar works every day to earn a living and sleeps at peace.
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.
In this last stanza, the poet is thanking the blacksmith for a lesson that he has taught him without his knowledge. The way the blacksmith dwells day and night teach him that we are makers of our fate, and each day we shape our future and life with our own hands.