Solemnly, mournfully,
Dealing its dole,
The Curfew Bell
Is beginning to toll.

Cover the embers,
And put out the light;
Toil comes with the morning,
And rest with the night.

Dark grow the windows,
And quenched is the fire;
Sound fades into silence,–
All footsteps retire.

No voice in the chambers,
No sound in the hall!
Sleep and oblivion
Reign over all!


The book is completed,
And closed, like the day;
And the hand that has written it
Lays it away.

Dim grow its fancies;
Forgotten they lie;
Like coals in the ashes,
They darken and die.

Song sinks into silence,
The story is told,
The windows are darkened,
The hearth-stone is cold.

Darker and darker
The black shadows fall;
Sleep and oblivion
Reign over all.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem CURFEW


  1. Sally says:

    Could this poem possibly be about death? I need to do a project on this and find a deep meaning, however – the idea of this poem just being about going to sleep at curfew is as shallow as a puddle. If this poem could be about death or something deep; what is the theme.


  2. lea dela rosa says:

    this poem is our assignment. T.T Oh my.. its so hard to make its stylistic analysis… anyone who could help me?

  3. Sir Longfellow wink wink says:

    this poem makes me wish i could read..the complexity of illiteracy is exuberating…

  4. Eric says:

    This first part of this poem is about the darkening and silencing of a city when the curfew bells ring, the second part of the poem is about a book that is discarded and permenantly forgotten.

    The second half borrows similar imagery from the first half of the poem, juxtaposing the two to create a deeper meaning. You have the metaphoric death of the town (basically the town quieting down for the curfew, putting out fires and lights and going down for a long silent sleep) All of which invokes death imagery. Then in the second half you have a forgotten book, sitting in a forgotten room in the darkened village. The key to reading this as a poem about death are the lines: “Sleep and oblivion reign over all”, which are repeated twice to end both sections of the poem.

    The book in the second half of poem is the Book of Life written by God with the names of everyone in the world (who will live and who will die). I suppose one could read the second half of the poem as the End Times. The book is forgotten and discarded and thus all of humanity is forgotten and discarded, but that may be a bit extreme.

    The first half of a curfew, not only open with imagery of a village entering a state of sleep, but also presents us with the very concept of the curfew. The curfew is a restriction on the life of the town itself, it limits freedom to “live” after the bell strikes. In the second half, this is repeated, except now we have the Book of Life written by God, which limits who has the freedom to live. In both cases, the individual is not in control of their destiny, but someone else is controlling their destiny and whether they can live or exist (in the first part of the poem after a certain time in the day, in the latter half, after God has finished the story and forgotten about it). That is what this poem is about: not having control of one’s own freedom, of one’s own destiny, but obedient to bells and the book of some greater force (the town/God).

  5. Mary Perry says:

    I first read this poem over fifty years ago. The first part refers to the law in England that required fires to be put out at dusk to prevent another major fire. I always felt the second part was about our lives. The author of the book is God. After our death, after a few generations we are little more than a name on a grave stone.

  6. lacey says:

    this poem rocks!!! it grabs you right at the go with the awesome ryhmes!!! it gives so much more detail to curfew then what kids and teens deal with in todays time!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.