Critical Appreciation of H.W. Longfellow's Nature



 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) is one of the most popular and celebrated American poets .Longfellow's poetic work is characterized by familiar themes, easily grasped ideas, and clear, simple, melodious stylish language. His beautiful sonnet Nature is a popular example of his simple yet melodious lyricism. It is not hard, then, to show in the poem Nature the general structure: the rhyme-scheme; the sustained simile expressed by the two great waves of thought, one in the octave and the other in the sestet; and the complete impression in few words.


The sonnet Nature is modeled upon the Italian, or Petrarchan sonnet form. It has fourteen lines in two sets: two quatrains forming an octave, rhyming abba, abba; and six lines in two sets of three, rhyming abc, abc. The jump of thought i.e. the volta of a sonnet is well structured too as the intensity and ineptness of the thought culminates form the octave to sestet.

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.




 The octave stanza begins with a beautiful simple verse of the child busy in playing while his mother is attending him to take on rest. The child is playing day long and now is obviously tired and his fond mother, as the day is over, her little child to bed. But he child is half willing for he is tired and half reluctant for he is still wishing to play more with his playthings. His broken playthings are lying on the floor and he is gazing at them through the open door. His mother’s promises of new playthings replacing old ones can not wholly reassure and comfort the little child. Even though more splendid and gorgeous the new articles it should be, his amorous broken articles allude him still.

Like an extended simile the sestet stanza makes it explicit the profound philosophical idea contained in the poem. As the relation of the fond mother and her reluctant child is drawn in the first Para, we find the nature mother and inmates like us is related. Nature mother deals with us, the human likewise. As the playthings of the child are broken one after another, our pleasures of life are taken away one after another. All the sensual pleasures, rosy springs of passion of body and heart are taken away gradually. The glamour of wealth and glory of youth become more shabby and deterred; we are gently led to death by the nature mother without even knowing if we wish to go or stay. The eternal sleep will lull us into the graveyard, to the territory of the vast unknown, the world beyond. More surprisingly, the experiences and knowledge gained in our earthly life are insufficient and incapable of explaining what lies beyond the earthly, physical life.


 H.W. Longfellow has exquisitely presented in the poem Nature a philosophical idea of death as inevitable consequences of din and bustle of our life. It is the greatest boon of our Nature Mother that she fosters and nurtures human life with all sorts of material pleasures and attachments. It is the same nature, however, makes us old, infirm and fragile and gradually all the playthings are taken away and the earthly bindings go shattered. Like in The Retreat by Vaughan, Longfellow too states our days of earth limited or like Gray states the inevitable consequences of our life leads but to the grave. But what remind us most are Tagore’s immortal lines from Golden Boat where the Eternal Boatman i. e. god is reluctant to carry other earthy articles other than the man himself.  

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