Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
The day is done, and the darkness
- Right off the bat, Longfellow sets the scene. He tells us that it's the end of the day, and that darkness is closing in.
- Notice all of the d sounds in that first line (day, done, darkness)? Starting things out with that poetic trick (called alliteration) gives this poem a calm, rhythmic feeling from the very beginning.
Falls from the wings of Night,
- You know that moment, right at twilight, when the sky is getting dark? Longfellow imagines that the darkness is falling down "from the wings of Night," as if the nighttime was some kind of giant bird. This turns "Night" into a kind of character in the poem, a living, active thing.
- Like the alliteration in the first line, this personification shows us how poetry can be different from plain old description. It can transform a simple moment into a whole world of rhythm and imagery.
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.
- Now he gives us a little more detail about this great big bird called "Night."
- He imagines darkness drifting down like a single feather that drops from an eagle's wing as he flies.
- It's a pretty vivid image, right? Of course, because he's a poet, Longfellow doesn't say that the feather just drops, or falls. He says it is "wafted downward." That's just fancy poetry speak for "falls gently," but we like the sound of it. We think it adds to the feeling of calm and quiet that runs throughout this poem.