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The Tide Rises The Tide Falls Essay

, Research Paper

The ocean is one of the most powerful forces on this earth. It stops for nothing. This idea is represented in the poem “The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In this particular poem, the ocean is the symbol for life. Although many things are dependent on the ocean, it is dependent on nothing. It continuously rises and falls. This is also true of life. People come and go, but life always exists. In this poem, Longfellow uses many poetic techniques including meter, symbolism, and parallel structure to convey his thoughts.

The Tide Rises, the Ride Falls

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

(pg. 152)

The tide rises, the tide falls,

The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;

Along the sea sands damp and brown

The traveler hastens toward the town,

And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Darkness settles on roofs and walls,

But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;

The little waves, with their soft, white hands,

Efface the footprints in the sands,

And the tide rises, the tide falls.

The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls

Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;

The day returns, but nevermore

Returns the traveler to the shore,

And the tide rises, the tide falls.


The tide comes, the tide goes,

The evening sky dimes, the brown bird crows;

Along the wet, amber shore

The journeyer rushes to the village,

And the tide comes, the tide goes.

Blackness rests on frames of the city,

When it’s dark, the sea still cries;

The waving surf with snow-white caps,

Erases all traces left by man,

And the tide comes, the tide goes.

The dawn appears, the horses wake,

The stable hand enters, exciting their state;

The day comes back, but not again

Will the traveler see the vast ocean,

And the tide comes, the tide goes.

When the poem is read aloud, the way it sounds contributes to its overall effectiveness and impact on the reader. The repetition of the line “The tide rises, the tide falls” begins to echo the lulling sounds of the ocean. This is an example of the effective use of the poetic techniques of parallel structure. Another example of parallel structure is found in the second line of each stanza, when Longfellow uses the word “calls” repetitively. The meter, stressing the word in the center of the line and having an unstressed syllable at the end of line, causes one’s voice to actually “rise” and “fall” just as the tide does. Longfellow also uses inversion, for example in the line “Returns the traveler to the shore.” This allows the poem to follow the “a-a-b-b-a” rhyme scheme. Onomatopoeia is also present in this poem. This technique can be found in the phrase “the curlew calls” and the words “stamp” and “neigh,” when the stated animal sounds are portrayed through related words.

Longfellow uses many techniques to illustrate the theme of the poem; life goes on despite its many changes. Symbolism occurs in this poem through the tide, which symbolizes life in the sense that no matter what else happens, it will continue to run its course. When the waves “Efface the footprints in the sand,” this symbolizes that the traveler dies and is no longer an important part of the world’s existence and meaning. The use of apostrophe is evident in the phrase “The day returns, but nevermore returns the traveler to the shore.” Longfellow addresses the traveler, who is absent from life as it is now known. The horses represent the idea that the world is constantly full of different kinds of life. Longfellow gives the sea personification, a character similar to that of life itself. “The little waves, with their soft, white hands” that erase all traces of the traveler may seem cruel, but it mimics life in the fact that once a person dies, traces of their existence soon disappear. The description of the ocean and shore is enhanced by the use of imagery. Several lines of the poem include imagery, including “The twilight darkens, the curlew calls.” This particular line includes words which appeal to the senses of sight and sound.

Longfellow uses various techniques in this poem that combine to form lasting images. These images appeal to the emotions, allowing the reader to easily grasp Longfellow’s views of life. Although each individual life is important, the hard truth remains that each life is a mere drop of water in the vast ocean.