The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls

By Henry W. Longfellow

The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls

The tide rises, the tide falls,

The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;

Along the sea-sands damp and brown

The traveller hastens toward the town,

And the tide rises, the tide falls.

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.

The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls

Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;

The day returns, but nevermore

Returns the traveller to the shore,

And the tide rises, the tide falls.

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To me, this poem represents the travels, and maybe migration, of a traveler. During the poem, the tide continuously rises and falls, which I believe is a motif of the poem. I think there is some connection between the traveler and the sea, possibly through immigration, as I said before. The poem starts out by saying "The traveller hastens toward the town". This obviously means some person has just reached a town. They have probably journeyed long and far to reach this place, and they finally made it. However, this person may long for their homeland, and therefore the sea that brought them there, for the sea could return them there. This is shown in the line "But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls". The sea is calling out to the traveler; urging them to return to the sea and thus home. However, the traveler decides to or has to stay in their new land, for in the last stanza "The day returns, but nevermore/Returns the traveller to the shore". The traveler clearly had to remain in their new land, although the sea, and home, continued to call for the rest of their life.


I think the overbearing theme of this poem is, of course, the sea. Longfellow's use of repetition helps add emphasis to this motif, as he repeats "The tide rises, the tide falls," after every stanza. Like I referenced in the interpretation, I think the continuous rising and falling of the sea represents a constant yearning inside the traveler to return to their true homeland, although they never can.

About the Author

Want to find out more about Longfellow and his work? Check out this bio from Poetry Out Loud!

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