What according to H.W.Longfellow are the feelings of the child being led away to bed in his sonnet "Nature"?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The feelings of the child (which represents us as human beings) in this poem are stated quite clearly.  The child is very ambivalent about the idea of being led off to bed (death).

The child is half willing and half reluctant -- he keeps looking back at what he is being led away from.  He is somewhat reassured by the promise of a better life (after death) but is not completely sure that it will be there.  He is not wise enough to understand the reality of what is to come and he is, therefore, reluctant (although not completely so).

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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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The theme of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's (1807-1882) sonnet "Nature" is the tenderness and gentleness of 'Nature' in guiding human souls from this world to the next.

He has synthesized and synergized the thematic metaphors in a compelling manner to effectively convey this theme.

The two metaphors in the octave [the first eight lines]  'a fond mother' and 'her little child' are harnessed  in the chronotope of the arrival of the bed time of the child. Death in this world is compared to the bed time of the child. Just like how the child would like to continue playing forever with its toys without going to bed, adults also would like to continue to be busily engaged forever in their mundane activities without any thought of a higher reality.

But the kind and affectionate mother knows how essential sleep is for the good health of her child and very gently coaxes the child to leave its "broken playthings" behind and puts the child to sleep. Similarly, death very gently leads us away from all our earthly attractions and distractions and leads us into the mysterious but higher "unknown."

Longfellow's conception of death leading adults to a higher and mysterious reality is platonic and agnostic. It is not a Christian view of life after death in which sinners will go to hell and the righteous to heaven. Longfellow's views on the 'after life' in this poem are non-judgmental and apply to all humanity.

Longfellow describes the feelings of the child as it is gently led to its bed by its 'fond' mother thus:

As a fond mother, when the day is o'er,
Leads by the hand her little child to bed,
Half willing, half reluctant to be led,
And leave his broken playthings on the floor,
Still gazing at them through the open door,
Nor wholly reassured and comforted.


By promises of others in their stead,

Which, though more splendid, may not please him more

These lines clearly explain that the child is sleepy and confused and not certain as to what to do -  whether to continue playing or obey its mother and go to bed. So also we adults are reluctant to give up our worldly concerns and follow after death when our time to leave this world comes.

kartikmajumdar's profile pic

kartikmajumdar | High School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

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In the poem Nature, the fond mother leads her little child to bed in the evening. But the child is not almost willing to leave his playthings. So, the mother promises to give him more splendid playthings just to lead her child to bed.When the child is led to bed, he still gazes at the broken playthings through the open door

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