The Arrow and the Song Analysis by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Context: Henry Longfellow is an American romantic poet, who got famous for his works on 1800s when he was nearing his death. His poems have a brilliant imagery of nature, and create a beautiful picture in the mind of the reader. The poet here speaks about an arrow and a song, which both are symbolic, our harsh and noble gestures, respectively. The poet wants to say that our gestures leave a deep impact on people, no matter how much time has passed by, and to whom you have spoken those words to, one day, you will find out that your words were unchanged in the heart or mind of the people, and they will remember you. Hence, it is always important to watch what you speak and do.

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Rhyming Scheme and Style: Longfellow has followed a specific style and pattern in this poem. The rhyming scheme of this poem is a a b b. For example, in the first stanza:

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.

He has followed this rhyming scheme throughout the poem. The poem is short with just three stanzas, but the poet has used beautiful metaphors of the arrows and the song to represent our sweet and bitter action. He wants to tell that we need to think before speaking anything to anyone, as it might stay in the heart of people undestroyed for a long time. But it is not necessary that we understand or realize it sometimes, that how sometimes our hatred or love swiftly goes out, and hence, we might not be surprised to find it out after a long time.

Like his every other poem, the poet has used punctuations to let the reader pause in specific places in the sentences, where he wants the reader to pause and exhibit more importance in those areas, to understand the flow and meaning of the poem. Punctuations in a poem help the readers to understand the tone and meaning of the poem, whereas it helps the poet to express efficiently what he means to say and what he wants the readers to understand. This helps to add a certain tone and theme to the poem.

Theme: The theme of the poem is imagery and romantic, where the poet has used two metaphors for our actions. There is beautiful description of nature and the woods, and the poet has chosen brilliant theme and metaphors, and has put them in a simple poem, which is easy to understand and is enjoyable. The metaphors used here are the arrow for our harsh and bitter behaviour, and the song for our kind and friendly behaviour. In this poem he sends a message for our retrospection and introspection, where we need to watch our words and actions, as they sometimes leave a lasting impact on people. The poet says that even if a lot of time passes by, the effect of our actions stay fresh, hence we should be always watch and be careful about what we do and what we say.

Symbolism: In this poem, Longfellow has used the “arrow” and the “song” for two exactly opposite things. The arrow stands for something that could cause harm and leave a wound behind, whereas the song is something which represents warmth and friendliness. The poet wants to show that the arrow and the song leave from us at an unmatchable speed, and travels leaving no trail behind. But inspite of long time, they both are undamaged, and leave an impact behind. Similarly, when we speak something harsh or kind to someone, we donot realize that how much our words could affect someone, and in what way. The impact could remain for a very long time without our knowledge. The poet wants to express that we should be very careful with what we speak, and to whom, as like the song and the arrow, they could leave a lasting effect without being damaged.

Deep Meaning: The deep meaning of the poem is that we need to think before we speak or act, as we might not know how hatred or love would slip out of us, and we might end up leaving a bitter impact on somebody. This couldn’t be changed with time, and if inspite of many years, the effect would remain still afresh in the heart of people. The poet has used beautiful metaphors to express his thoughts in this poem.


Krishna Bora is a food enthusiast, loves war stories and Charles Bukowski. She is an aspiring writer who is currently pursuing her Masters in English.

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