Yr 8 Poetry Study: The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls by Longfellow


The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

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 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.

Vocabulary:

  • curlew – bird
  • efface – wipe away, erase
  • steeds – horses
  • hostler – stable hand

Questions:

  1. Describe the shape of cadence in each line.
  2. How has Longfellow formed this cadence through punctuation?
  3. Why is it important that the cadence is shaped in this way? How does it affect the meaning?
  4. The “all” sound is the most predominant throughout the poem. Describe what type of sound “all” is and explain why this is important. (Comment on the shape it forces your mouth to take, the intonation it encourages and the nature of the syllables and how they sound).
  5. In the second stanza we get very close to the meaning of the poems in the lines:

    The little waves, with their soft, white hands
    Efface the footprints in the sands,
    And the tide rises, the tide falls.

    When the waves “efface” the “footprints”, what does this say about the significance of mankind?

  6. This poem works on the themes of constancy and insignificance. Man is insignificant in this poem because he is “effaced”. In addition, he returns “nevermore” to the shore, thereby suggesting that life goes on without him or her. How does the rhythm and rhyme of the poem support the idea that life goes on without human beings?
  7. At the end of each stanza, Longfellow finishes with “And the tide rises, the tide falls”. Why is the word “and” significant in developing the theme of the insignificance of mankind in the grand scheme of things?
  8. The “traveller” has no identity. Why do you think this is so?
  9. Do you think this poem is successful in creating meaning on two different levels – meaning and sound? Respond in 10 lines using evidence.

Writing Task:

Explain the irony of the theme “the insignificance of man” when it is discussed in literature. 10 lines.

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