"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
"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.