Analysis of Fireside Poets

For most people, when they hear the word romance, they think of love. In modern times, this is an understandable reference to the word, but long ago during the Romantic Period of the United States, the word romantic meant something totally different. Some characteristics of the Romantic Period are valuing feelings and intuition over reason, contemplating nature’s beauty as a path to spiritual and moral development, and finding beauty and truth in exotic locations, supernatural realms, and imagination. Another topic expressed widely throughout the Romantic Literary Period was death because there was a substantial amount of diseases. A great example of writing during the Romantic Literary Period are the writings of the Fireside Poets.

The poems, “A Psalm of Life,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls,” by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow, and “The First Snowfall,” by Oliver Wendell Holmes, all follow the theme of death but they have many different takes on such a serious matter. In Longfellow’s “The Psalm of Life”, his perspective of death is that nobody should be afraid to die. Longfellow has a very lighthearted take on death in his poem “The Psalm of Life.” In the first stanza, Longfellow states to: Tell me not, in mournful numbers, Life is but an empty dream! For the soul is dead that slumbers, And things are not what they seem. (Longfellow 1-4) This shows that Longfellow feels that once you die, life does not end; Longfellow claims that there is an afterlife that one will go to once they pass away.

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Longfellow also shows that no matter what, everyone dies and there is no way to escape our fate. Longfellow shows this by stating that Art is long, and Time is fleeting, And our hearts, though stout and brave, Still, like muffled drums, are beating Funeral marches to the grave. (Longfellow 13-16) This shows that throughout our life, we are working towards death the entire time; with every time someone’s heart beets, they are that much closer to their judgment day. Longfellow also infers that we should live every day to the fullest. This is shown when the author commands his audience to “Act, — act in the living Present!” (Longfellow 23). This tells the audience not to act upon the past or the future but to live life for today and to forget about the rest.

One thing that people can take from “A Psalm of Life” is that every day they should stop worrying about what happened in the past or what happened in the future, people need to take live life to the fullest with as little worry as possible. In James Russell Lowell’s poem, “The First Snowfall,” death is portrayed as a very mournful situation. The author shows his first take on death when looking at the snowfall. Lowell shows this when he refers to: “Again I looked at the snow-fall, And thought of the leaden sky That arched o’er our first great sorrow, When that mound was heaped so high. (Lowell 25-28) This shows that that even nature causes the persona to remember the pain of losing his daughter. Lowell also uses snow to hide the grave of his daughter.

The author shows that the snow helps him heal when he states: “I remembered the gradual patience That fell from that cloud like snow, Flake by flake, healing and hiding The scar that renewed our woe. (Lowell 29-32) This shows that the now helps the persona heal and hides the pain that he once felt. The author also shows that life will go on after losing someone precious to you. This is shown when the writer says Then, with eyes that saw not, I kissed her; And she, kissing back, could not know That my kiss was given to her sister, Folded close under deepening snow. (Lowell 37-40) This shows that even though the persona has lost his daughter, he still has his other daughter and with that, he can move on. One thing people may take from reading this poem is that though death is sorrowful, with time it will be okay.

In Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls,” death is portrayed as a part of life. Longfellow first shows that life goes on after someone dies. This is shown when the author states that the: Darkness settles on roofs and walls, But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls: The little waves with their soft white hands, Efface the footprints in the sands. And the Tide rises, the tide falls. (Longfellow 6-10) This shows that once someone dies, people will remember them but will eventually have to move on. Longfellow also shows that life doesn’t stop after your death.

This is shown when he refers to when: The morning breaks: the steeds in their stalls Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls: The day returns, but nevermore Returns the traveler to the shore, And the tide rises, the tide falls. (Longfellow 11-15) This shows that even when someone dies the cycle of life will continue as it does after every death. Longfellow also shows that death is a part of life. This is shown when the author states that “the tide rises, the tide falls” (Longfellow 15). This is an extended metaphor of the cycle of birth and death.

Something that people can take from this poem is that death will happen sooner or later and there is no way to escape it All in all, “A Psalm of Life,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The First Snowfall,” by Oliver Wendell Holmes, and “The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls,” by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow portray the theme of death in different ways. Death is usually taken in a very hard way with sorrow and depression but through the writing of these authors, people can gain the knowledge of realizing that life will go on through patients. Death can also be viewed as a paradise from reality as an endless dream. People should not be afraid of death because there is nothing to fear. The only thing that matters is the mark that these people are leaving on the civilization they are leaving behind.