The Windmill

The Windmill

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Behold! a giant am I!
Aloft here in my tower,
With my granite jaws I devour
The maize, and the wheat, and the rye,
And grind them into flour.

I look down over the farms;
In the fields of grain I see
The harvest that is to be,
And I fling to the air my arms,
For I know it is all for me.

I hear the sound of flails
Far off, from the threshing-floors
In barns, with their open doors,
And the wind, the wind in my sails,
Louder and louder roars.

I stand here in my place,
With my foot on the rock below,
And whichever way it may blow,
I meet it face to face,
As a brave man meets his foe.

And while we wrestle and strive,
My master, the miller, stands
And feeds me with his hands;
For he knows who makes him thrive,
Who makes him lord of lands.

On Sundays I take my rest;
Church-going bells begin
Their low, melodious din;
cross my arms on my breast,
And all is peace within.

Summary of The Windmill

  • Popularity of “The Windmill”: This simple yet highly effective poem, “The Windmill” is a masterpiece of Henry Wadsworth, an American poet, and writer. The poem first appeared in 1880 and was thought to have been a good piece for children which it proved at that time. However, later, it has proved a good piece for the memory of the simple human machines used by our forefathers in the past. The popularity of the poem lies in the metaphorical presentation of the windmill in verses.
  • “The Windmill” As a Representative of Past Machines: The poet has presented the windmill as the speaker who draws the attention of the readers to itself saying “Behold” to show that she is a giant. Presenting herself as a feminine machine, this windmill states that she grinds everything, whether it is maize, wheat, or rye. She continues with the grain, whatever comes to it and states that she hears the threshing machines separating grain from the husk, but she cannot go as she is installed at a place. However, she meets all of them like brave men and grinds them to flour. The fruits of her hard work, however, go to her master, who is becoming richer every day, while she takes a rest on Sunday by keeping her hands on her breasts.
  • Major Themes in “The Windmill”: The presentation of the old machines, metaphorical presentation of the hard-working tools, and humanitarian assistance are major themes of this poem. The main beauty of the poem lies in the metaphorical presentation of this giant machine who thinks of herself as a feminine helper who continues working to make her owner lord of lands, and yet she takes rest only on Sundays. Longfellow has presented a walking picture of an old machine that used to dominate the world of farming but has now fallen to disuse due to the introduction of new machines. The feminine representation proves a pen picture in her own words that she used to wait for the threshing machines to separate grain and send it to her to grind it without taking any rest. This continues until Sunday and restarts the next day. This shows how machines used to help human beings in the past.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in The Windmill

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

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /e/ in “Aloft here in my tower” and the sound of /o/ in “I look down over the farms.”
  2. Alliteration: It shows the use of initial consonants in the beginning of successive words, such as the sound of /w/ in “while we wrestle” or /h/ in “his hands” or /b/ in “bells begin.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /r / in “And I fling to the air my arms” and the sound of /f/ and /r/ in “Far off, from the threshing-floors.”
  4. Enjambment: It means to use roll over the meanings of a verse into the next line or verse without a pause. The poem shows the use of enjambment, such as;

On Sundays I take my rest;
Church-going bells begin
Their low, melodious din;

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow used imagery in this poem, such as “I hear the sound of flails”, “In barns, with their open doors” and “I stand here in my place.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects different in nature. The poet has used the metaphor of a woman for the windmill.
  3. Personification: It means to attribute human emotions to inanimate objects. The poet has used the personification of a windmill as if it is a woman and has emotions.
  4. 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 giant, granite, wheat, maize, or flour to show the hard work of a machine.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in The Windmill

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 and poetic language.
  2. End Rhyme: It means to use verses having matching end words. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow shows the use of end rhyme such as I/rye, and tower/devour/flour.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: This poem shows the ABBAB rhyme scheme through this poem until the last stanza.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are six stanzas, each comprising five verses.
  5. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows an honest, determined, and resolute tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote when talking about determination and resolution.

I stand here in my place,
With my foot on the rock below,
And whichever way it may blow,
I meet it face to face,
As a brave man meets his foe.