The passage of time in is reflected in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls" because the first stanza starts at evening time "twilight," then moves to the dark of night in stanza two, finally arriving at dawn in stanza three. Thus time is reflected as passing.
Stanza two represents the dark of night during which the tide rises to "efface," like a soft white hand, the footprints that the hastening "traveller" of stanza 1 left upon the sand. Stanza three takes the poem to morning with horses wakening in their stables and waiting for their trainer ("hostler").
The main point of the poem is now spoken: Even though the day returns and the animals awaken, the "traveller" of stanzas one and two will never return home any more. Something has happened to him, seemingly he was overcome by the rising tide despite the haste he was making. His footprints aren't the only thing that the "soft, white hands / Efface."