Longfellow Explores the Legacies of Love and Hate Through Verse

In “The Arrow and the Song”, Henry Longfellow explores the fate of two choices: an arrow of hate and a song of love. This metaphor addresses the lingering tendency of our memories.


“The Arrow and the Song”

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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.

The first and second stanzas of this poem establish the unpredictable nature of any actions we take. Whether we shoot off a string of insults or a litany of compliments, in that moment, we do not know the long term effects of our actions.

For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.
 
The third stanza tells us what we all eventually come to realize in our maturity. After all that time, the arrow stays lodged in the oak and the song stays in the heart of your friend. Memories can be a lingering pain or eternal bliss. This poem serves as a reminder to always be spreading joy, because that kindness will last ages.
 
Henry Longfellow will always hold a spot in my list of favorite poets for his epic love poem, Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie. It is an unforgettable love story, full of dense imagery. Highly recommended.