Study Guide

The Day is Done Man and the Natural World

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Man and the Natural World

"The Day is Done" isn't really a "nature" poem.  Longfellow doesn't go on for pages about bunnies or sheep or waterfalls or hillsides.  Still, check out all the images in this poem that come from the natural world.  Even when a poem is about sitting inside and reading, the natural world is still a really important source of poetic imagery.  We think of the natural world as sort of hanging out in the background in this poem, giving it extra texture and richness.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Would this poem be the same if you swapped out the natural images for something else?  In other words, do you really think nature is an important part of this poem?
  2. Do you get a clear sense of where we are at the beginning of the poem?  Would you like the speaker to say a little more about the setting?
  3. Can you imagine night coming in like an eagle feather (lines 2-4)?  Does that seem like a clear and powerful opening image?
  4. In this poem, the daytime seems to be tied to pain, while the night is associated with music and joy.  Does that make sense to you?  Is the division that simple?

Chew on This

Images of nature are a subtle, calm presence in this poem, helping to create the peaceful, rhythmic feeling of the text.

The natural imagery in "The Day is Done" is mostly nonspecific and clichéd.  It provides a general "poetic" feeling without contributing much to the meaning or impact of the poem.

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