After a long day of toil, the narrator wants nothing more to be at home where his companion will read him a simple and heartfelt poem. He does not speak of sleep or children or food or prayer; it is only poetry that can soothe his restless spirit. This is a powerful statement about poetry's ability to feed the soul, for poetry is not just pretty or diverting—it can also be nurturing, sustaining, and therapeutic.
After a hard day the narrator retires to his private sanctuary: his home, where his beloved reads him a poem in order to palliate his cares. This domestic space is crucial to the poem's message. Its coziness, its permanence, the presence within it of a loving wife all suggest its value to the narrator, and, by extension, serves as an aspiration for readers. The first half of the 19th century witnessed the market revolution, a time of rapid and vast change in the areas of the economy, transportation, communication, and technology. The home was thus seen as a refuge from the fast-paced, rough, and chaotic world outside its doors. Longfellow gives voice to that sentiment in this poem as well as others like "The Children's Hour."
Longfellow does not have a particularly rosy view of life. He uses the following words to describe it: "restless," "toil," "endeavor," "long days of labor," "care," "devoid of ease." He feels a sense of "sadness and longing" and "the restless pulse of care." The days are thus long and tiring and occasionally burdensome. That is why one must have a home and a family and some sort of art like poetry or music to quell these feelings of discomfort and sorrow.
The Day Is Done Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Day Is Done is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.