• The speaker of this poem describes a traveler coming to a town by way of the shore, while the tide rises and falls endlessly. The ceaselessness of the waves contrasts with the traveler’s brief stay. – human action is fleeting, nature is eternal
Stanza Summaries1. the traveler comes to town; nature pays him/her no mind; man has little influence on nature2. the waves erase the footprints of the traveler; human life is nothing compared to the power of nature.3. the traveler’s stay was short; the tides are continuous.
Rhyme Scheme• Words that rhyme with “falls” occur in the first, second, and fifth lines of each stanza.• The rhyme suggests a pattern of recurrence that imitates the rise and fall of the tide.• the rhyme scheme is aabba/aacca/aadda - this pattern evokes the image of the recurring waves and underscores the cyclical, ceaseless quality of nature
• Daylight returns each morning (nature eternal) - like the tides - but the traveler will never return (humans are temporary)
• The traveler leaves footprints in the sand. The wave erases the footprints and the traveler moves on.• Nature stronger than man.
• “Our destined end” or purpose is to act bravely and patiently achieve our goals• Make a mark on the world – be remembered• great people make their mark on the world and, through their example, inspire others to act
lines 17-18 - metaphor• Life is like a battlefield, the world is full of strife, and that individual’s life in the world is only temporary, like a bivouac
Compare the two poems• Reread lines 8-10 in “The Tide Rises...” and 25-32 in “A Psalm of Life.” Consider what happens to the footprints in each poem. Based on this and other images, how would you say Longfellow’s outlook on life and death in each poem is similar? In what way is it different?
• In both poems, life is fleeting. “The Tide Rises...” is more somber, humans are dwarfed by nature and not much remembered - indicated by the footprints that the tide erases• In “A Psalm of Life,” individuals can have an enduring impact on the world (indicated by the footprints that remain) - a view that is denied in “The Tide Rises...”
Symbolism• Traveler – any human, no identity since they’re forgettable• Tide – continuation of time• Journey of traveler – life as we live it
• “traveler hastens to town” – people are always trying to avoid death• Reference to animals and the tide at the beginning and at the end – life goes on after we are dead