Poetry Month: Longfellow Remembered


In trying to find great poems by great poets for Poetry Month I came up with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Village Blacksmith”  as a tribute to my High School English teacher who accused me so often of being some sort of fer-i ner given my poor grasp of grammar and atrocious spelling.   We were required to memorize this poem and had to recite it before the class.  It was at that time I learned I had a knack for memorization and really enjoyed making presentations in front of tough audiences.  The fear was intoxicating so this led, naturally, into a career in law

Longfellow once told someone that this poem was a tribute to a hardworking relative. And, I am struck by the last stanza:

“Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought.”

We each face the flaming forge at times of crisis, and the smithy shows us that a steady hand and faith will forge our fortunes not in terms of dollars but in terms of the passion with which we live.

The picture of the lawnmower stands as a tribute to the modern machine most likely to be found in a modern home and most like the old smithy.  A workhouse over which much sweat is spilt. OK it’s not a chestnut tree, this is South Carolina, so a spreading Dogwood and Loblolly Pine will have to do.


The Village Blacksmith

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.


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