The Village Blacksmith

Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

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His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate’er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.

Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low. 

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And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing-floor. 

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He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter’s voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice. 

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It sounds to him like her mother’s voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.

Toiling,–rejoicing,–sorrowing,
Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night’s repose. 

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Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought.

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Every time my husband fires up the forge, I think of this poem. A few years ago he was having a pretty stress filled time at his paying job. I saw a listing for a beginner blacksmith class and signed him up. As my husband will tell you, there isn’t a much better way to relieve stress than to go outside and bang some steel.

This banging of steel has turned from a way of re-centering to a way to relate with the kids – from the older ones who go out and shape steel themselves to the little ones who like to turn the crank that keeps the fire glowing, it has become a thing of such enjoyment for them all. And odd as it may sound, there is something so beautiful about the smell of coal smoke on their clothes and smudges on their faces when they come inside, smiling about work done well.

Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night’s repose.

2 Comment

  1. Sydney had been memorizing this poem for school. Reading the first half brought me right back to a few weeks ago when she and I were snuggled on the couch acting out the lines together.

  2. It warms my heart to see a Poppa and his children working together. And the smudges of coal dust on their cheeks is like the topping on a cake.

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