The Fire of Drift-wood

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807–1882 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

DEVEREUX FARM, NEAR MARBLEHEAD.

We sat within the farm-house old,
      Whose windows, looking o'er the bay,
Gave to the sea-breeze damp and cold,
      An easy entrance, night and day.

Not far away we saw the port,
      The strange, old-fashioned, silent town,
The lighthouse, the dismantled fort,
      The wooden houses, quaint and brown.

We sat and talked until the night,
      Descending, filled the little room;
Our faces faded from the sight,
      Our voices only broke the gloom.

We spake of many a vanished scene,
      Of what we once had thought and said,
Of what had been, and might have been,
      And who was changed, and who was dead;

And all that fills the hearts of friends,
      When first they feel, with secret pain,
Their lives thenceforth have separate ends,
      And never can be one again;

The first slight swerving of the heart,
      That words are powerless to express,
And leave it still unsaid in part,
      Or say it in too great excess.

The very tones in which we spake
      Had something strange, I could but mark;
The leaves of memory seemed to make
      A mournful rustling in the dark.

Oft died the words upon our lips,
      As suddenly, from out the fire
Built of the wreck of stranded ships,
      The flames would leap and then expire.

And, as their splendor flashed and failed,
      We thought of wrecks upon the main,
Of ships dismasted, that were hailed
      And sent no answer back again.

The windows, rattling in their frames,
      The ocean, roaring up the beach,
The gusty blast, the bickering flames,
      All mingled vaguely in our speech;

Until they made themselves a part
      Of fancies floating through the brain,
The long-lost ventures of the heart,
      That send no answers back again.

O flames that glowed! O hearts that yearned!
      They were indeed too much akin,
The drift-wood fire without that burned,
      The thoughts that burned and glowed within.

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807–1882

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Subjects Friends & Enemies, Living, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Nature, Relationships, Sorrow & Grieving

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Henry Wadsworth  Longfellow

Biography

By far the most widely known and best-loved American poet of his time, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow achieved a level of national and international prominence possibly unequaled in the literary history of the United States. Poems such as "Paul Revere's Ride," Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie (1847), and "A Psalm of Life" became mainstays of national culture, long remembered by generations of readers who studied them in school. . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Friends & Enemies, Living, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Nature, Relationships, Sorrow & Grieving

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.