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The Day is Done

The Day is Done

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sadness Theme

"The Day is Done" has a lot to say about the feeling of sadness. We're not talking about awful, horrible, crawl-under-the-covers-and-don't-come-out-for-two-weeks sad. This is more like the sort of blue feeling you get when you're alone on a gray day. Not depression, not grief, just… sadness. A lot of the poem is spent trying to describe this unique and mysterious feeling.

Questions About Sadness

  • Do you think there are different kinds of sadness? Can you be a little bit sad and a little happy at the same time?
  • Do you recognize the feeling of "sadness and longing" (line 9) that Longfellow talks about in this poem? Have you ever felt that way at the end of a long day?
  • Is there a relationship between sadness and art? Sorry, that sounds a little pretentious, but do you see what we mean? Are you more in the mood to read or look at paintings or listen to music when you're feeling a little down as opposed to when you're happy and hyped up?
  • Does this seem like a sad poem to you? If not, how else would you describe it?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

"The Day is Done" is a poem about sadness, but its tone and language are generally cheerful and optimistic, producing a surprisingly happy overall effect.

Longfellow's poem draws a careful contrast between sadness and pain, and the tension between the two states is part of what makes the poem particularly subtle and effective.

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