The Humankind and the World of Nature
“The Day is Done” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and “A Hymn to the Evening” by Phillis Wheatley represent the narrators’ attitude towards the surrounding. The poems portray the perceptions of the external world and the search for self-reflection through the eyes of nature. Longfellow illustrates the day as the revelation of narrator’s identity. According to her religious views, Wheatley glorifies the evening as a symbol of virtues and vices created by God’s will. Both authors examine the nature that has a significant influence on their lives because the images of days and nights are directly associated with the power of nature. The main theme of the poems discusses a perfect union of the human being and the natural world. In these two poems, the reader perceives the nature through the narrators’ emotional state.
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In “The Day is Done,” Longfellow focuses on the image of the day that might introduce the narrator’s inner state of solitude. He recollects his past which consists of precious memories that depict vividly his sufferings and dissatisfaction with life. Looking over his emotional spectrum, a narrator finds the images that could explain his experiences. Nature becomes his palette; the images will become his endeavors. However, they will not specify the reasons of present feelings. In this case, metaphor plays a vital role as it describes the protagonist’s understanding of a severe reality via the beauty of the environment and his loneliness. For instance, the lines “the darkness/ Falls from the wings of Night,/ As a feather is wafted downward/ From an eagle in his flight” have a metaphorical meaning that allows the reader to explore the image of the day changed by darkness (Longfellow 1-4). In “The Day is Done,” the symbolic images reinforce the narrator’s emotions allowing him to immerse into his inner world. The line “Gleam through the rain and mist” depicts the protagonist’s solitude which he accepts due to his inability to resist reality (Longfellow 6). Moreover, the image of the rain makes the reader feel small drops of water over his/her face and body. The mist makes the surrounding invisible intertwining the speaker’s thoughts. It is evident that these symbols are closely connected when the protagonist indicates, “As the mist resembles the rain” (Longfellow 12). They follow him everywhere because of his solitude. He suffers from the despair of a lonely poet who longs for comfort. The word “echo” has a double meaning as its light sound reveals the presence of doubts in life. However, echo produces nothing more than the silence that forces the speaker to penetrate his hidden world of thoughts that bring him no moral satisfaction. There is also a hint at the fleetness of time enhanced by the essence of the word “flight” that creates certain foreshadowing as it is hard to predict what might happen at night. The author knows that the time passes quickly and one never has a second chance to relive the moment. Gloomy imagery which is based on the description of night, rain, mist, and music contributes to the creation of melancholic tone which changes with the narrator’s mood. In order to make the reader pay attention to sorrow and pain, the narrator changes his tone. Even though the phrase “the lights of the village” represents the glimpse of hope, it reveals a constant search for comfort in solitude (Longfellow 5). Thus, living between the day and the night as the reminder of the most sacred reminiscences, the narrator remains alone in the world of nature. Nature does not heal him or help him, but it only reflects his pain, hope, and humility.
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While analyzing “A Hymn to the Evening”, it is clear that Wheatley’s religious views make a significant impact on her perception of the world. For her, nature and humankind are God’s miraculous accomplishments. Due to this fact, her images of nature emphasize the idea of its splendor. The imagery is considered to be one of the most substantial literary elements that boost a high mood of the narrator and her positive attitude towards the sense of life. In fact, the words “the sun,” “thunder,” “the blooming spring,” “streams,” “birds,” and “mingled music” explain the title of the poem which relates to the pride and fame (Wheatley). While exploring these images, the reader might envision bright colors and hear distinctive sounds with their unforgettable natural effect. Additionally, both the narrator and the reader experience different senses that make them closer to the world of nature and its eternal power that never fades. The words “Night’s leaden sceptre seals my drowsy eyes” illustrate the narrators’ sadness while she is dreaming at night. The emotions compel her to think about the meaning of life and its momentum (Wheatley 17). As Longfellow, Wheatley also adores the world of nature and concentrates on its beauty to depict the charm of life. In “A Hymn to the Evening,” Wheatley demonstrates her admiration for the evening while praising it with respect and excitement. The title of the poem is the main metaphor as it attaches great value to the evening reflecting the power of God who has proved His mightiness. As a result, the reader may perceive the words “Majestic grandeur!” as a vivid metaphor that refers to the image of the evening through the thunder. However, on the other hand, it might also represent the eternity of God as an everlasting ruler (Wheatley 3). Without faith in her heart, Wheatley would not perceive or depict the world as such a magical place.
Similarly to Longfellow, each image of nature, including thunder, spring, streams, and Aurora, illustrates the person’s love to the surrounding. In Wheatley’s case, nature also refers to the religious views of the poetess. These metaphors highlight her belief that every human is God’s creature; it is necessary to be thankful for all His mercy and gifts that exist in the world of nature. Nothing can last forever, and this idea conduces to the creation of a sad tone. However, the tone of the poem is mainly positive in contrast to the tone in “The Day is Done.” Nevertheless, when the poetess uses the metaphor “the snares of sin,” she alludes to death (Wheatley 16). In “The Day is Done,” the narrator also regrets about his past and ruined hopes by mentioning an essential phrase “the corridors of time” (Longfellow 25). It means that each person is forced to encounter the life hardships and that there is no chance to escape them. Life resembles a short existence of the day which changes to the evening and then to the night. Undoubtedly, life is extremely short due to the commitments which end with the death. Therefore, every individual needs to value the sense of life before night overcomes his/her existence.
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In conclusion, “The Day is Done” by Longfellow and “A Hymn to the Evening” by Wheatley portray the narrators’ understanding of nature as an integral part of their lives. Longfellow loves nature for an opportunity to explore and to reveal his identity and inner sufferings of the poet who searches for his path in life while living in despair and solitude. Wheatley tries to highlight the importance of a natural beauty created by God; she explains that people should value the sense of life. She focuses on the shortage of time as everything is fading at a high speed. Eventually, both authors apply metaphors, imagery, and foreshadowing to emphasize the beauty of the day and the evening which are associated with life and death. It makes the reader wonder about the interdependence of human feelings and nature. Certainly, nature has a profound impact on the authors’ emotional state, but the life of a human being is more important.