Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Arrow, the Song, Will Not Stay Us Long

Hi, everybody!

Today’s poem is another ripe one from Longfellow. So why do I think you should read it? Well, for one thing, you know its first lines already.


The Arrow and the Song
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

So there it is, the poem that launched a thousand parodies. (“ hit my teacher’s derriere” to note but one.) Now you know the point of those lines.

In a footnote to the poem (useful things, footnotes) I discovered an entry from Longfellow’s diary: "October 16, 1845. Before church, wrote The Arrow and the Song, which came into my mind as I stood with my back to the fire, and glanced on to the paper with arrow's speed. Literally an improvisation." So now we know a second thing, which is that the poem did not take up a great deal of Longfellow’s time.

Nor need it ours.



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