I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem THE ARROW AND THE SONG


  1. Whimsy says:

    At first I thought it was a poem about someone who sows what he cannot reap — it touched the heart of the teacher in me.

    But the singer reaped what he’d sown — and I realized this could well be a hymn to matrimony!

    The leap of faith the couple takes at the altar is realized long, long afterward.

    What is it doing in my kids’ poetry book?

    The kids are the fruit of that faith, hope and love at the altar, so it is somehow very appropriate to be in one of their books.

  2. billy says:

    i have to do this poem for my english techer. i had to get it memorized. it has a great moral to it

  3. vincent says:

    in this poem,,, i’ve got moral lessons,,eventhough i could hurt people(we are not perfectly made).thus, it just only reminding us people that WE! should be careful what we say and what we do!Sometimes our patience could be gone!!!But here in poem shows that there is forgiveness if we have mistaken…If you have some of angryness in our heart just let go! Just say to God He’ll take the fight and win it for you!!! HAVE A BLESSED DAY!

  4. janis hunter says:

    would like the words to the poem hiawatha

  5. Madeline says:

    We sang the words to this poem as a song in chorus this year, as well as the first verse to “Snow-Flakes”.As I read these poems to myself, the chords that accompanied these words are playing in my head… I believe that Longfellow has a hidden talent as a songwriter as well as a poet.
    (come to think of it, What’s the difference?)

  6. jeff says:

    i really like this poem it kinda touched me you know wat im sayin

  7. Patrick Steeves says:

    The poem The Arrow and the Song was written by the famous poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882). Henry lived in the romantic era long with composers Berlioz and Schumann. The romantic era was a period of brilliant masterpieces centered mainly of peace, love and symbolism. The Arrow and the Song was one of his greatest works and its meaning continues to today with the arrangement for choir by Marilyn Lightfoot.

    In the first line of the first stanza, the word arrow represents a friendship because like arrows, friendships can fly a far distance. The second line of the first stanza, “It fell to earth, I knew not where;” signifies that what the arrow symbolizes has been forgotten or lost from sight. The last two lines in the first stanza signify that things can change in a blink of an eye because if you blink you can literally miss the flight of an arrow.

    The word song in the first line of the second stanza can represent many things. It can represent memories, dreams or rumors because if any of these things are spoken aloud, like a song, others will learn of them. I also noticed that the first two stanzas were very similar to each other and that lead me to believe that the arrow and the song both symbolize the same things. Also the second line of the first and second stanzas, “It fell to earth, I knew not where” represents that you can have no idea of where certain things may end up and they may bear unexpected consequences. The last two lines of stanza two confirm this. It also represents that a small act of kindness can convince a person to do an act of kindness to another and so on and so forth.

    In the first sentence of the last stanza, I believe they choose the word oak because oaks are solid, strong and in this poem are used to symbolize a person’s soul. Also in the second sentence of the first stanza, “I found the arrow still unbroke;” signifies that they found that the friend from the first stanza was still their friend, no matter what disagreement they may have had. Finally, the last two lines of the third stanza states “And the song, from beginning to end/I found again in the heart of a friend.” These lines imply that seeing or talking to a friend can revitalize hopes, goals, and dreams.

    The title also supports my theory. Since an arrow is intended to be harmful, this may be the reason that the friendship was “killed”. Also, since songs are meant to be meaningful, pure and beautiful, this can easily represent memories, dreams or goals, since they are meant to be meaningful, pure and beautiful.

  8. Lauren says:

    For chorus in 8th grade our chorus teacher, Dr. Laun Berry, composed The Arrow and the Song by, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It is avery touching song and tells a story about a very important lesson learned about friendship. The amazing lyrics and sything words are what make this poem extravagent!

  9. Honey Love Longos says:

    An analysis on diction…
    Since Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is a well-known poet of the Indian poems of Hiawatha, it is not a surprise that he used the words arrow and song to present this poem. An arrow is an ancient weapon used by the Indians and other ancient people in warfare and hunting. The Indians in particular made their individual arrows for their own personal use; thus, they can identify their own amidst a hundred of other arrows. And long before writing was developed, Indians express their thoughts and feelings, orally; thus, singing was one of the popular arts in oral communication. So literally, one can picture an Indian shooting an arrow without specific target and lost sight of it. At another instant, the same Indian sang a song and lost sight of it, for nobody can see where a song goes. But later on in his life, he saw his arrow again stabbed deep in an oak, intact. And he also realized that his song was wholly kept in the heart of a friend.
    An analysis on Imagery…
    The author used metaphor in conveying a very basic yet important lesson to the readers; for naturally, an arrow is a harmful weapon—it hurts and worst, kills; while the song obviously relieves or refreshes the mind and heart. Thus, one can conclude that these two things represent or are a metaphor of the two kinds of words that each of us is capable of saying: the destructive or piercing words and the constructive or praising words. At the same time, the oak represents a person hurt by the cruel words one has spoken. The evil words had remained fresh and nurtured in spite of time. And the friend represents a person one has encouraged with such pleasing words that the deed was remembered through time.
    An analysis on theme…
    The poem reminds everyone to think twice and be aware of what one speaks—for words travel very quickly. And once out can either dishearten or encourage the person involved, and those words could affect him or her for a lifetime.

  10. Katy says:

    I think this poem tells the powerful story of friendship. Although the arrow, the sometimes harmful words exchanged in a relationship, flies away quickly without a trace, the song, the loving forgiveness and compassion that friends possess, supercede and rush over the once piercing wound of the arrow. The song is everlasting, “from beginning to end,” a true depiction of friendship and love.

  11. Dennis Zelmer says:

    The poem is a moral lesson. Longfellow cautions us that the words we say travel quickly and widely. The arrow is an insult or negative word. The oak is an angry person we offended by the indiscriminate remark. The song is a compliment or word of praise. The friend is simply that… a friend. Better to sing songs than to shoot arrows!

  12. jen antonio says:

    Well, i’ve encountered this poem while i was tutoring to my grade 4 neighbor. The arrow and the song is a poem that depicts the outcomes or consequences of our action, may it be for the betterment of the others or just plain out of nothing to do at all. the arrow symbolizes an object that could harm in itself, that once you release it you are not determined whether it would put a harm to someone or something on which it land. the song on the other hand is the irony of the arrow; the song could posibly connote a good deed that was given to someone. It might go swiftly and instantly but the effect is undetermined as well. This poem is about an arrow that symbolizes harm and a song that symbolizes compasion; once used together could create an outcome far different from what we have perceive. The end of the poem resolves what the two object has done; the arrow didn’t create any harm while the song won a friend to end.

  13. S. Santhosh says:

    I have studied this in my college class in India. After that today to read this poem again. Excellent piece of work by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

  14. Heather says:

    I love this poem. I had to remember and receit this poem in grade school, and I fell in love with it. I have been searching for it for a while now. I never forgot it once I had to memorize it.

  15. Grace says:

    this poem reminds of the interpersonal relationship. you know, the arrow in the poem represents something concrete and physical, the shooting of the arrow results in nothing; while the song has sowed love in other people’s heart, this shows the power of music, it can transcend the limitations of the realistic world.

  16. José Dativo Marques Moutinho says:

    Today when I was thinking about this poem, I tried Google and your site was the first one to show it. I have a strong feeling about this poem because, many years ago, when I was listening the records of Linguaphone, an old english course sold in Brasil those days, I found it and enjoy it very much. It remember me of my youth days back in the interior land, in the brasilian state of Minas Gerais, and used to play game with my bow and arrows that I made. The poem sounds to me like a tender and sweet music. Since those days, whenever possible, I say the piece, and all people get touched by its words and sound. Thank you for remembering me such great moments.

  17. Britt says:

    The Arrow and The Song is a great poem. I had to learn it in high school and i am now teaching it to my daughter. It is a fabulous poem!!!

  18. elisa burchett says:

    To M. Deneen Carter,

    Thank you for “reinforcing my belief” that people do listen. I work in a business where people listen superficially, at best, to the lyrics of the songs. I’ve read countless music reviews and came to the conclusion that people don’t listen. Not even when they’re paid to listen! I was given a book of poems as a gift and found The Arrow and The Song just when I needed it. It expressed my feelings perfectly and I began arranging a vocal version immediately. Longfellow’s poem spoke to my feelings of isolation at the time. It brought to mind messages in bottles and the like. After recording the song I began to wonder where the song might land. My question has been answered. Thank you for listening.


  19. M Deneen Carter says:

    I recently heard a song entitled “The Arrow & The Song”, written and produced by Elisa Burchett and Dmitry Brill(2003); it is a beautiful and captivating song on a ‘chill/lounge’ compilation CD mixed by Peter Rauhofer(2004). I was instantly enamoured with and intrigued by the metaphors suggested within the lyrics. I read the CD jacket insert further and realized that the producers of the song gave credit to Longfellow’s poem of the same name. The experience reinforced my belief that many people are drawn instinctually to certain types of language, as I have long considered H.W.Longfellow to be one of my favorite poets.
    Irony ensued immediately as it then occurred to me that I could not recall having ever read this particular poem before hearing the song. Furthermore, the title centers, at least in part, a ‘song’.
    I understand there are many references to this pair, arrow and song, throughout many cultures and civilizations of known human history. In today’s everchanging paradigm of quantum mechanics (pardon the pun), I feel the ‘arrow’ may represent God’s creation of light/the theory of the speed of light; the ‘song’ correlating with sound.

  20. Harold Rinacke says:

    Thanks for the memories. I was telling my daughter about the poem and she knew nothing about it. She is 34 and they just do not teach the classics in school any more. What a waste.

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