The Fire of Drift-wood
The Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, with Bibliographical and Critical Notes, Riverside Edition (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin, 1890), I, 267-69. PS 2250 E90 Robarts Library.
2 Whose windows, looking o'er the bay,
3Gave to the sea-breeze damp and cold,
4 An easy entrance, night and day.
5Not far away we saw the port,
6 The strange, old-fashioned, silent town,
7The lighthouse, the dismantled fort,
8 The wooden houses, quaint and brown.
9We sat and talked until the night,
10 Descending, filled the little room;
11Our faces faded from the sight,
12 Our voices only broke the gloom.
13We spake of many a vanished scene,
14 Of what we once had thought and said,
15Of what had been, and might have been,
16 And who was changed, and who was dead;
17And all that fills the hearts of friends,
18 When first they feel, with secret pain,
19Their lives thenceforth have separate ends,
20 And never can be one again;
21The first slight swerving of the heart,
22 That words are powerless to express,
23And leave it still unsaid in part,
24 Or say it in too great excess.
25The very tones in which we spake
26 Had something strange, I could but mark;
27The leaves of memory seemed to make
28 A mournful rustling in the dark.
29Oft died the words upon our lips,
30 As suddenly, from out the fire
31Built of the wreck of stranded ships,
32 The flames would leap and then expire.
33And, as their splendor flashed and failed,
34 We thought of wrecks upon the main,
35Of ships dismasted, that were hailed
36 And sent no answer back again.
37The windows, rattling in their frames,
38 The ocean, roaring up the beach,
39The gusty blast, the bickering flames,
40 All mingled vaguely in our speech;
41Until they made themselves a part
42 Of fancies floating through the brain,
43The long-lost ventures of the heart,
44 That send no answers back again.
45O flames that glowed! O hearts that yearned!
46 They were indeed too much akin,
47The drift-wood fire without that burned,
48 The thoughts that burned and glowed within.
1] "`September 29, 1846. A delicious drive with F. through Malden and Lynn to Marblehead, to visit E. W. at the Devereux Farm by the sea-side. Drove across the beautiful sand. What adelicious scene! The ocean in the sunshine changing from the silvery hue of the thin waves upon the beach, through the lighter and the deeper green, to a rich purple in the horizon. We recalled the times past, and the days when we were at Nahant. The Devereux Farm is by the sea, some miles from Lynn.An old-fashioned farm-hourse, with low rooms, and narrow windows rattling in the sea-breeze.' From this visit sprang the poem .... In a letter in 1879 to a correspondent who had raised a matter-of-fact objection, Mr. Longfellow readily admitted that the harbor and light-house, which he visited the same day, could not be seen from the windows of the farm-house." (The Editor, pp. 267-68.) Back to Line
Publication Start Year:
The Seaside and the Fireside (1849)
RPO poem Editors: