The Day Is Done

The Day Is Done Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What is the significance of the Arabs and their tents?

    Longfellow ends his poem on a quiet note, with an image of nomadic Arabs packing up their tents and silently stealing away into the desert. This is a metaphor expressing how one's cares can fade away into the recesses of one's mind if there is something like poetry to soothe such troubles. The image is also important because it stands as a contrast to what is being promulgated in this poem as well: the nurturing refuge of the domestic space in 19th century America. The Arabs are nomads and putatively restless and unsettled. By contrast, when Longfellow returns to his peaceful and quiet home where his wife waits for him with a "treasured volume" of poetry, he can quiet his mind and refresh himself.

  2. 2

    Why does Longfellow want someone to read to him?

    There is no reason why Longfellow cannot pick up the volume of poems himself, choose one, and read it privately and silently. However, he asks his companion to choose one and to read it aloud to him. One reason for this is that poetry is best when it is read aloud; Longfellow wants to hear her beautiful voice speaking the words, which will come alive in a different way. Also, he can be quieter, less active, and more at peace if he is sitting back and listening rather than reading himself. And finally, by inviting his companion to read to him, he is making an intimate and shared experience. He loves her and wants her there as he works through his cares.

  3. 3

    What is the difference between the two types of poetry that the speaker considers?

    Longfellow has nothing bad to say about the type of poetry many people are familiar with—the great epics and complex metaphysical works of Milton, Shakespeare, Donne, Homer, Spenser, and more. These are works that thrill and inspire, teach and warn, and delve into the deepest questions of what it means to be human. However, there are other poems that matter as well; these other poems may be about simple, pure things such as nature, animals, rain, love, etc. These poems might lack the pathos and grandeur of the other works but they are still valuable and useful, especially in terms of easing cares and softening the harshness of life's struggles.