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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

(27 February 1807 – 24 March 1882 / Portland, Maine)

Nature



As a fond mother, when the day is o'er,
Leads by the hand her little child to bed,
Half willing, half reluctant to be led,
And leave his broken playthings on the floor,
Still gazing at them through the open door,
Nor wholly reassured and comforted
By promises of others in their stead,
Which though more splendid, may not please him more;
So Nature deals with us, and takes away
Our playthings one by one, and by the hand
Leads us to rest so gently, that we go
Scarce knowing if we wish to go or stay,
Being too full of sleep to understand
How far the unknown transcends the what we know.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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  • Rookie Leonard Wilson (9/6/2012 12:51:00 PM)

    The two parts of Longfellow’s sonnet compare a child’s being put to bed to an older person’s approaching death. The child is tired and probably will fall asleep quickly, but he doesn’t want to stop playing. Some of his toys are broken and he has been promised new, better ones to replace them, but he isn’t sure that he will like them as much as his old favorites.

    As we age and approach death, nature takes away our “playthings” (line 10) gradually; that is, we slowly lose our physical strength, our energy, our vision and hearing, our abilities to do various things well, our sex drive, etc. We become tired and long for rest, but at the same time, we want to cling to life and its pleasures. The Christian religion has promised us a glorious existence after this life, far better than we can even imagine, but our faith isn’t quite strong enough to embrace and look forward eagerly to crossing into that paradise.

    Nature (God’s tool) helps to smooth the way, lulling us gently toward that blessed future by dulling our faculties and preparing us for our final sleep. Longfellow obviously believes, as the Christian faith proclaims, that the unknown existence awaiting us far transcends (exceeds) the flawed life here on earth, even though we cannot grasp the immensity of the glory that awaits our transition. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Leonard Wilson (9/6/2012 12:46:00 PM)

    The two parts of Longfellow’s sonnet compare a child’s being put to bed to an older person’s approaching death. The child is tired and probably will fall asleep quickly, but he doesn’t want to stop playing. Some of his toys are broken and he has been promised new, better ones to replace them, but he isn’t sure that he will like them as much as his old favorites.

    As we age and approach death, nature takes away our “playthings” (line 10) gradually; that is, we slowly lose our physical strength, our energy, our vision and hearing, our abilities to do various things well, our sex drive, etc. We become tired and long for rest, but at the same time, we want to cling to life and its pleasures. The Christian religion has promised us a glorious existence after this life, far better than we can even imagine, but our faith isn’t quite strong enough to embrace and look forward eagerly to crossing into that paradise.

    Nature (God’s tool) helps to smooth the way, lulling us gently toward that blessed future by dulling our faculties and preparing us for our final sleep. Longfellow obviously believes, as the Christian faith proclaims, that the unknown existence awaiting us far transcends (exceeds) the flawed life here on earth, even though we cannot grasp the immensity of the glory that awaits our transition. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Leonard Wilson (9/6/2012 12:44:00 PM)

    The two parts of Longfellow’s sonnet compare a child’s being put to bed to an older person’s approaching death. The child is tired and probably will fall asleep quickly, but he doesn’t want to stop playing. Some of his toys are broken and he has been promised new, better ones to replace them, but he isn’t sure that he will like them as much as his old favorites.

    As we age and approach death, nature takes away our “playthings” (line 10) gradually; that is, we slowly lose our physical strength, our energy, our vision and hearing, our abilities to do various things well, our sex drive, etc. We become tired and long for rest, but at the same time, we want to cling to life and its pleasures. The Christian religion has promised us a glorious existence after this life, far better than we can even imagine, but our faith isn’t quite strong enough to embrace and look forward eagerly to crossing into that paradise.

    Nature (God’s tool) helps to smooth the way, lulling us gently toward that blessed future by dulling our faculties and preparing us for our final sleep. Longfellow obviously believes, as the Christian faith proclaims, that the unknown existence awaiting us far transcends (exceeds) the flawed life here on earth, even though we cannot grasp the immensity of the glory that awaits our transition. (Report) Reply

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