The Village Blacksmith

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1840

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.

Toiling,–rejoicing,–sorrowing,
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.

 

One thought on “The Village Blacksmith”

  1. This makes me think of the issue of “right livelihood”, for which Alice and I have sought such different solutions during our time together. Alice found ways to give her gifts to the community and be compensated (though not nearly what she is worth). I fell back on offering my gifts without hope of compensation, relying on investments, borrowing, and subsidies from my parents to keep bread on the table.

    I have imagined that this time we live in poses unique challenges for anyone seeking right livelihood. The hedge fund managers and the corporate raiders are raking in billions, while hourly wages for workers are insufficient to pay basic necessities or raise a family. Our working class is sinking further into debt every year, while the plutocrats own everything. Longfellow reminds us that these problems are not new, and the difficulty of earning a living in a way that one could be proud of was already apparent 200 years ago.

    Like

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