What are the differences and similarities between the two poems of H.W.Longfellow-"The Slaves Dream " and "A Psalm Of Life"?What are the differences and similarities between the two poems of...

What are the differences and similarities between the two poems of H.W.Longfellow-"The Slaves Dream " and "A Psalm Of Life"?

What are the differences and similarities between the two poems of H.W.Longfellow-"The Slaves Dream " and "A Psalm Of Life"?

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michael-niagara's profile pic

Michael Ugulini | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

One difference between the two poems is that the character in "The Slave's Dream" is a man who isn't free and who relies on the benevolence of his master for a certain quality of life, even in a slave condition. In the poem "A Psalm of Life" the narrator, by all implications is a free person, not constrained by others in living a productive life.

From a poetic device standpoint, a difference between the two poems is that "The Slave's Dream" is a poem not broken up by stanzas. "A Psalm of Life" is broken into nine stanzas. Another difference between the two poems is that "The Slave's Dream" speaks of an end of a life - after much struggle as a slave. "A Psalm of Life' speaks of a life still being lived and how one must take life by the reins and boldly pursue their dreams and goals.

One similarity of the two poems is the primary themes they both deal with, which is Life and Death. Another similarity is the use of rhyme to give the poems a sense of musicality and cohesive structure. In addition, a similarity of the two poems is that they both involve dreaming of a better life. The slave longs for his freedom back in Africa and a vibrant, productive life with his family. In "A Psalm of Life", the poet speaks of living a hopeful, productive life now - in the present - and he advocates not dwelling on death.

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litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Both poems involve dreams compared to reality.  The slave is dreaming of his homeland, and that part is happy.  In the end, even though the slave dies it is still reaonably upbeat, except that the only way to escape slavery is to die.

He did not feel the driver's whip, 
   Nor the burning heat of day; 
For Death had illumined the Land of Sleep


"A Psalm of Life" is not very pleasant either.  Life is described as empty.

Life is but an empty dream ! — 
    For the soul is dead that slumbers, 
        And things are not what they seem.

Both poems take a rather dreary approach to life.  In "The Slave's Dream" the only way to be happy is to die.  In "A Psalm of Life" we are basically told not to trust life.

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