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Summary

Stanza 5 Summary Page 1

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 42-43

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night-encampment on the hill

  • The creepiness continues as Longfellow reminds us of the dead people in the churchyard (a graveyard around a church) down below.
  • He imagines them being like an army asleep in a camp ("their night-encampment").

Lines 44-48

Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, 'All is well!'

  • This poem is all about seeing and hearing, and Longfellow pulls us into the moment with his careful description of sights and sounds.
  • Right now the only thing Paul's friend can hear is the wind. He imagines that it sounds like a "sentinel's tread" (the footsteps of the soldier who is guarding a camp).
  • The image here is that the wind is like a soldier guarding the graveyard, moving among the dead people's tents and letting them know that everything is OK.

Lines 49-51

A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead

  • Everything is not OK, however; there's work to be done tonight.
  • Suddenly Paul's friend snaps out of it and breaks the "spell" of the creepy belfry. With that, the second spooky ghost story comes to an end.

Lines 52-56

For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,—
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.

  • The sight of the British ships pulls the narrator back into the moment and the mission. The army is crossing the river on its way to the other side.
  • He spends a little time describing the image of these ships, which form a line across the river that looks like a bridge made of boats.
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