Featured Poem: The Arrow and the Song by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

We’ve already entered the second month of the year and our first Featured Poem for February comes from American poet and educator Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the few American poets to be honoured in Westminster Abbey’s Poets Corner. Amongst his great breadth of work, he wrote about an Afternoon in February, a piece appropriate for the month that has just arrived although it is somewhat melancholic in its imagery, ‘the red sun’ that ‘flashes’ being the one bright spot in an otherwise foreboding atmosphere throughout.

To get your week and February off to a positive start, this choice is far more optimistic. It starts off quite mysteriously – there seems to be no reason for the speaker to be shooting an arrow into the air or breathing out a song. Is it a call to action perhaps, or a plea to be heard? The fact that neither can be followed also gives us chance to ponder whether every action needs a reaction. As we get further into the year and it may seem that hopes and aspirations made with the best intentions in its beginnings have faded out of sight not to be followed, it’s worth bearing in mind this poem, which gives us call to be patient as it is often the little things that we do that can have the most far reaching effects – often long into the future.

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 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.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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