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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

Ballads and Other Poems

The Village Blacksmith

  • In the autumn of 1839 Mr. Longfellow was writing psalms, as seen above, and he notes in his diary, October 5th: “Wrote a new Psalm of Life. It is The Village Blacksmith.” A year later he was thinking of ballads, and he writes to his father, October 25th: “My pen has not been very prolific of late; only a little poetry has trickled from it. There will be a kind of ballad on a Blacksmith in the next Knickerbocker [November, 1840], which you may consider, if you please, as a song in praise of your ancestor at Newbury [the first Stephen Longfellow].” It is hardly to be supposed, however, that the form of the poem had been changed during the year. The suggestion of the poem came from the smithy which the poet passed daily, and which stood beneath a horse-chestnut tree not far from his house in Cambridge. The tree, against the protests of Mr. Longfellow and others, was removed in 1876, on the ground that it imperilled drivers of heavy loads who passed under it.

  • UNDER a spreading chestnut-tree

    The village smithy stands;

    The smith, a mighty man is he,

    With large and sinewy hands;

    And the muscles of his brawny arms

    Are strong as iron bands.

    His hair is crisp, and black, and long,

    His face is like the tan;

    His brow is wet with honest sweat,

    He earns whate’er he can,

    And looks the whole world in the face,

    For he owes not any man.

    Week in, week out, from morn till night,

    You can hear his bellows blow;

    You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,

    With measured beat and slow,

    Like a sexton ringing the village bell,

    When the evening sun is low.

    And children coming home from school

    Look in at the open door;

    They love to see the flaming forge,

    And hear the bellows roar,

    And catch the burning sparks that fly

    Like chaff from a threshing-floor.

    He goes on Sunday to the church,

    And sits among his boys;

    He hears the parson pray and preach,

    He hears his daughter’s voice,

    Singing in the village choir,

    And it makes his heart rejoice.

    It sounds to him like her mother’s voice,

    Singing in Paradise!

    He needs must think of her once more,

    How in the grave she lies;

    And with his hard, rough hand he wipes

    A tear out of his eyes.


    Onward through life he goes;

    Each morning sees some task begin,

    Each evening sees it close;

    Something attempted, something done,

    Has earned a night’s repose.

    Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,

    For the lesson thou hast taught!

    Thus at the flaming forge of life

    Our fortunes must be wrought;

    Thus on its sounding anvil shaped

    Each burning deed and thought.