Why do the children look in at the door?

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In Longfellow's poem "The Village Blacksmith," the children on their way home from school look in at the village blacksmith's door because

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.

The sight of the fire would obviously appeal to children, as would the roaring bellows and the slightly dangerous, therefore exciting, activity of catching the flying sparks. This is just the type of activity that might be made all the more attractive by their parents forbidding it. This would certainly be the case in a Mark Twain story, for instance, but Longfellow is so concerned to present the blacksmith as an idealized figure and a pillar of the community that it is quite possible that the local parents exhort their children to go and visit the blacksmith so that he may provide them with a shining example of industry and probity.

It is typical of Longfellow that he seeks to make inspiring, didactic verse out of what must be, by any standards, a cripplingly hard life passed amidst heat and dust. The poet ends by thanking the blacksmith for teaching him a valuable lesson:

Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought.

It is noteworthy, though, that the blacksmith's real labor teaches the poet a lesson about figurative forges and anvils. For the poet, as for the children, the blacksmith provides an exciting spectacle, but it is probable that both romanticize his life and occupation to a point where the "mighty man" they see and think about is a figure out of Greek or Norse mythology who has little relation to any real village blacksmith.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
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