The Arrow and the Song

by: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Arrow and the Song

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 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.

Help on Poem

Knew not, so swiftly it flew: Inversion, also known as anastrophe, is a literary technique in which the normal order of words is reversed in order to achieve a particular effect of emphasis or meter.

Still unbroke, from beginning to end: this is also explained in the theme, but these two phrases represent that the actions and choices you make will never fade, but will always remain out there.

About the Author

- Born in Portland, Maine in 1807

- Attended Bowdoin College in Maine

- Traveled abroad as a translator for Benjamin Orr

- Married Mary Storer Potter, she died a year later. He was remarried to Frances Appleton

- Free verse poems about making life more than material items, nature, but rarely wrote about current subjects and American concerns.

- Published a three-volume translation with the "Dante Club", his income that year was $48,000.

- Afterwards he wrote "The Hanging of the Crane" with Samuel Ward for $3,000.

- Died in 1882 from peritonitis.

- Many collected his works into volumes after death.

- Was said to be "the most popular poet of his day".

Fun Facts!

- His face was badly burned trying to save Frances from a fire, and resulted in him never being able to shave again. This is why he has a beard!

- His bestfriends were Nathan Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson


This poem symbolizes that all of our actions and choices, whether good or bad, will, if not immediately, eventually have either a positive or negative consequence. The arrow represents a wrong choice made. When it says, "... the sight could not follow in its flight", it means that the author made that bad decision, but could not see the immediate consequence. Afterwards, it says the arrow was found in an oak. This is representing that although no immediate consequences happened, there were long term consequences. It is likewise with the song. The song represents the good works that have been done, and the part where the song if found in the heart of the friend is the positive impact that right choice had made down the road. Also the phrases, "still unbroke", and "from beginning to end", show that our good and bad works, no matter how long ago they happened, will never fade and will continue to either hurt or help.
A Poem is - The Arrow and the Song read by Richard E Grant

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