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.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s ballad, “The Village Blacksmith,” was first published in a New York Magazine, The Knickerbocker, in 1840. Shortly thereafter, in 1841, it appeared in Longfellow’s collection; Ballads and Other Poems. The poem takes the reader through the life of a blacksmith in town. Longfellow describes what the blacksmith looks like–his “large sinewy hands,” and “his face is like the tan.” Then Longfellow moves to how the blacksmith is “hardworking, well-liked and admired throughout the village” (150). The blacksmith is described as a vague member of Longfellow’s community, but in-fact wrote the ballad in memory of a specific blacksmith ancestor, Stephen Longfellow (Ziegler).
The ballad uses an eight-stanza variable rhyme scheme. A simile is used to describe the appearance of the blacksmith; “…The muscles of his brawny arms are strong as iron bands.” Here Longfellow is accentuating the Blacksmith’s abilities and strengths, many of which are unique and desirable among the community. The allure of the blacksmith is fortified through each stanza as Longfellow says only positive and admirable things about the blacksmith. “Something attempted, something done, Has earned a night’s repose. Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend, For the lesson thou hast taught!” (Longfellow 16). Not only does Longfellow describe the blacksmith as a good man but he stresses that the blacksmith is a hard working common man as well. He earns his sleep each night, which in the time of Longfellow is something commendable. The blacksmith is overall painted as a role model for other working people.
Longfellow admired the blacksmith, and explains to the readers how important it is to constantly be a good worker and have accomplishments as well as love in life. It is clear that the poem is more about its message to the audience than the actual iconic figure within the story. Because of its progressive philosophy, this poem was extremely popular in American schools in the 1950s. Children would memorize and recite it for its morally positive message. It is a way to see why children and teachers grabbed a hold of the poem and put it in the hands of children. It promotes many of the values an adult would hope to teach a child; vigilance, kindness, and devotion- setting a good example for all (Ziegler).
Bibliography and Further Reading Vickie L. Ziegler, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Village Blacksmith.
Credits Composed by Daniel Mulligan, Spring 2017