Context: Longfellow wrote "The Village Blacksmith" as a tribute to his ancestor Stephen Longfellow, a Cambridge blacksmith. The setting for the poem was a smithy beneath a chestnut tree close to the poet's home in Cambridge. The smith is glorified as a strong, honest, industrious, self-reliant, and tender-hearted man who works "Week in, week out, from morn till night." The "measured beat" of "his heavy sledge" sounds like "the village bell" rung by the sexton. Children returning from school love to stop at the smithy in order "to see the flaming forge,/ And hear the bellows roar,/ And catch the burning sparks that fly/ Like chaff from a threshing-floor." In the first two stanzas we see the smith as the epitome of the honest laborer, the man whose pristine integrity makes him the spiritual equal of any man:
Under a spreading chestnut-treeThe village smithy stands;The smith, a mighty man is he,With large and sinewy hands;And the muscles of his brawny armsAre strong as iron bands.His hair is crisp, and black, and long,His face is like the tan;His brow is wet with honest sweat,He earns whate'er he can,And looks the whole world in the face,For he owes not any man.