19th century American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, had a knack for capturing bits of real life in our newly-forming nation, and sometimes the legends and stories of America as well. Longfellow's Evangeline, The Song of Hiawatha, and Paul Revere's Ride form not only key segments of America's literary record, but they also serve to preserve and maintain our country's history.
Today's selection, The Village Blacksmith, does not record a significant historical personage or event as some of the poet's other works tended to do, but this poem does offer a clear insight into a couple of features of life in small New England towns in the 1800's. As the poet describes a village blacksmith and his devotion to work and his family, he also brandishes the American ideals of strength and determination. Not only does this blacksmith work long grueling hours at his forge every day, when he goes home, it is as a single parent who must then summon the strength to care for his children.
The Village Blacksmith is a beautiful poem and a true slice of Americana - one which I hope you will enjoy.
The Village Blacksmith
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.