Fata Morgana

Fata Morgana

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

O sweet illusions of Song,
That tempt me everywhere,
In the lonely fields, and the throng
Of the crowded thoroughfare!

I approach, and ye vanish away,
I grasp you, and ye are gone;
But ever by night an day,
The melody soundeth on.

As the weary traveller sees
In desert or prairie vast,
Blue lakes, overhung with trees,
That a pleasant shadow cast;

Fair towns with turrets high,
And shining roofs of gold,
That vanish as he draws nigh,
Like mists together rolled,–

So I wander and wander along,
And forever before me gleams
The shining city of song,
In the beautiful land of dreams.

But when I would enter the gate
Of that golden atmosphere,
It is gone, and I wonder and wait
For the vision to reappear.

Summary of Fata Morgana

  • Popularity of “Fata Morgana”: Written by the American poetic icon Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, this beautiful poem “Fata Morgana” first appeared in 1838 in a magazine and was later included in his collection. The poem highlights the Italian term Fata Morgana used for a mirage that appears in the Strait of Messina near the Italian coastal areas. It was described as the fair castle having false illusions. The poet has given words to his feelings about that mirage and turned them into a verbal description. This verbal description of the phenomenon has turned this poem into a popular poetic piece.
  • “Fata Morgana” As a Representative of Fata Morgana Mirage: This Italian mirage has become highly popular among artists and painters, and they have created several masterpieces over it. Longfellow, too, has written his poetic piece with this illusion in mind when he calls it “O sweet illusions of Song” in the very first line of the poem. He states that it tempts him wherever he goes and then vanishes without coming into his grip, yet leaving its melody to continue alluring him. This mirage plays hide and seek with several travelers that they see full and bustling cities, but when they approach them, they vanish in the mist. Therefore, the poet is of the view that he, too, like all other travelers, enters the golden atmosphere of this city and waits for its reappearance when it vanishes.
  • Major Themes in “Fata Morgana”: Chase of illusions, the world of fantasy, and the beauty of the transient mirage are major themes of Fata Morgana. The most alluring thing in life is the melody that Fata Morgana causes to reach the ears of the poet, and yet it disappears when the poet reaches it or has access to it. This illusory nature of illusions causes the poets and romantic figures to chase them. This is actually the world of fantasy that allures them to itself. The fact of Fata Morgana is almost the same in that it allures everybody, including the travelers, but when they reach it, it disappears in thin air as if it has never existed. The same happens with the poet, but the difference is that the poet waits for its reappearance while others leave as they have mundane responsibilities to perform. Therefore, they cannot wait for it.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Fata Morgana

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow used various literary devices to enhance the intended impact of his poem. Some of the major literary devices used in this poem are as follows.

  1. Apostrophe: It is a literary device that is used to call some absent person or an abstract idea. The poem shows the use of this literary device in the very first line, such as “O sweet illusions.”
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /e/ in “That tempt me everywhere” and the sound of /o/ in “The melody soundeth on.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /r / in “In desert or prairie vast” and the sound of /w/ and /n/ in “So I wander and wander along.”
  4. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “The shining city of song”, “In the beautiful land of dreams” and “Of that golden atmosphere.”
  5. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects different in nature. The poet used the metaphor of city for the mirage of Fata Morgana.
  6. Simile: It is a literary device that shows a direct comparison of things. For example, the poet has used the simile of mists for the mirage that it disappears like mists.
  7. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols, such as song, fields, thoroughfare, and melody, to show the nature of this mirage.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Fata Morgana

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows good use of formal, poetic, and musical diction.
  2. End Rhyme: It means to use verses having matching end words. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow shows the use of end rhyme such as song/throng and everywhere/thoroughfare.
  3. Quatrain: It is a Persian stanza having four verses. The poem shows the use of a quatrain, such as in the first stanza.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are six stanzas, with each comprising four verses.
  5. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows an exciting, melodic, and alluring tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote when talking about some illusion.

But when I would enter the gate
Of that golden atmosphere,
It is gone, and I wonder and wait
For the vision to reappear.