Friday, 1 February 2013

Poetry Reads: The Arrow and the Song by HW Longfellow


It was at school that I had my first nervous, stumbling brush with this ageless Longfellow poem. I was in third grade then and the teacher had, much to my displeasure, singled me out for reading aloud. The timid, unsure boy that I was, it was not long before the good-hearted teacher remarked in the middle of my halting rendition,"Relax, nobody is shooting any arrow at you." (Laughter in class)

Many years have since passed, a tingling pleasure arises now, whenever I read this one line after line, mimicking that long lost child in me. He was a lot more afraid, but hey, he was me.

At the time that it was published (1845), the industrial revolution had arrived in America, but was yet to stampede through with its cacophony. For the poem echoes of open spaces, clearings, quiet woods, idle time and leisurely pursuits.  Almost two centuries past, an old world charm persists in the lines, apart from a celebration of singularity.

Yes, we must also concede - It is most unlikely that someone somewhere in the English-speaking world (at least) would be looking for a lost arrow - a practicing archer would probably buy one online. As for the song, the refrain would be typed into the ever ready Google search box (In the Internet-crazy regions at least) and lo and behold, simultaneously downloaded. Yet, there is a mystery that remains, of discovery, friendship and curiosity. So here it is, this little time-travel of a song-poem:   
               
                           
The Arrow and the Song 
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

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(Article by Snehith Kumbla) 

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