Birds Of Passage "Home-keeping Hearts Are Happiest"
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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"Home-keeping Hearts Are Happiest"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: One of the characteristics that made Longfellow so popular with his audience was his ability to render scenes of contentment and domestic happiness, of comfort and quiet reflection. Such verses can scarcely be otherwise than sentimental, and this effect of sentimentality now finds less favor with critics than it once did. Nonetheless, his easy versification and the graceful melody of his lines possess an undeniable charm. The following brief lyric of three stanzas depicts home as many visualize it: a place where one may find rest and peace, a place of refuge and safety. It may be significant that Longfellow included it in one of his Birds of Passage collections, which consist largely of verse tales about far-off times and places. Although he had traveled extensively in Europe, Longfellow enjoyed the comforts of home, and this desire to remain at home naturally increased with advancing age. In this poem he tells us that at home our cares and troubles seem less serious than they do elsewhere, and doubts cease to trouble us; we enjoy a security which those who have cast loose such ties cannot have. There is a soothing, almost drowsy effect in the verses–as though the poet had just returned from a long, weary journey and knows that at last he will sleep in his own bed again:

Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest;
Home-keeping hearts are happiest,
For those that wander they know not where
Are full of trouble and full of care;
To stay at home is best.
Weary and homesick and distressed,
They wander east, they wander west,
And are baffled and beaten and blown about
By the winds of the wilderness of doubt;
To stay at home is best.
Then stay at home, my heart, and rest;
The bird is safest in its nest;
O'er all that flutter their wings and fly
A hawk is hovering in the sky;
To stay at home is best.