Sunrise on the Hills by H.W. Longfellow


Summary of The Poem


The poem, “Sunrise on the Hills” composed by H.W. Longfellow describes the beauty and the glory of nature. Poets believe that Nature has a healing power over man and that he feels enjoyed in the presence of Nature. The musical quality of the poem is truly praiseworthy. The poet used beautiful figurative languages such as simile to make the poem effective and sweet. The poem gives us a great message that we should protect our nature that contains flora and fauna. The unnecessary cutting down of trees and deforestation will destroy our nature. At last, Nature has a spiritual power with its rivers, trees, green-carpeted meadows and sunlit valleys that give us fresh energy and health, and we must know that we are part of Nature and if Nature is dead, humankind will perish.

When the poet stood on the hills, the sky looked like an arch of bright sunshine to him. It was the moment of the sun’s return to the western horizon, and the tall trees sparkle brilliantly in the golden sunshine, and the forests dance in the breeze. The poet looks down to see the clouds bathed in the sun. It was really a beautiful sight to see. Suddenly, the dazzling sun faded from the clouds, scattering like the lost troops in the battlefield. The top of the tall trees appeared like a broken lance, and the pine trees looked gloomy in the rain. Suddenly the curtain of the cloud was lifted, and far below the poet, the lovely valley is seen in brilliant golden light. There’s a river flowing in the valley. It looked like a white cascade (waterfall) on the hillside. The poet is delighted by the magnificent sight of Nature in front of him. He heard a bird’s music while flying over the valley.

The narrator heard the musical sound of the water dropping in the distance. He also saw the blue as far away, and the silver beach and the tall trees on the shore swayed in the breeze. He also heard the church bell sounding in a romantic tone in the village, echoed in all the hills and valleys. In keeping with this lovely sight and sound, the poet can see the smoke rising from the village homes in silence through the branches of the trees. Thus the poet is lost in the beautiful beauty and music of Nature, which is the gift of Heaven to man.

The poet tells us that if we are exhausted with work and the agony of life, please come to the heart of Nature and linger with her enjoying the beauty and peaceful silence of Nature. Soon all your sorrows and suffering will vanish, and new life will continue to flood through your blood and body, and you will be refreshed.

Stanza-Wise Summary

Stanza 1

The poet sits on the hill. Very early in the morning, he experiences a brightened sky. He calls the sky as “Heaven’s wide arch.” The poet knows that the sun has risen in the east. Sun rays are falling everywhere. The “woods” are sparkling with sun rays. Strong clouds, which the poet terms “gales,” are blowing very gently in the sun-covered valley (“sun-clad vales”). Since the poet is alone on the top of the cliff, he thinks like there are clouds beneath him. Even the sun rays make those clouds gorgeous. The poet thinks these clouds are around the forest. He also believes these clouds obscure the elegance of the forest. But the poet is able to see several pinnacles of these trees.

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When the clouds go away, he realises that these are pine trees that are “blasted,” “bare” and “cleft.” In the end, the clouds vanish. Now the poet sees a lovely valley that glows brilliantly below the cliff. He keeps a close eye on the valley and sees a river whose water is darkened by the “forest shade” which means that the sun rays do not fall on the flowing river. Yet the “white cascade” shines with the sun’s light. It’s morning at last. The poet will sense a noise of bitterness.

Stanza 2

At the beginning of the second stanza, the poet tells the sounds he hears and experiences as he sits on the hills. He’s seeing the dashing of the waves. Then he sees how the water shines and lights because of the current of the water. Water flows to the “blue” pool, then to the “silver beach.” There are trees that are bent at the “reach.” Across the valley, you can hear the “Music of the Village Bell” ringing everywhere in the hills. Throughout the trees, the sound of the “wild” horn can be heard. Its voice overwhelms the cheerful voices of the villagers. At the end of the stanza, smoke emerges from below the valley.

Stanza 3

In the third stanza, the poet says that if one is tired of one’s troubles and has some sort of pain, nature will cure it. So it’s easier if you’re going to drive. Nature can cure one’s sadness and agony. It will teach people good lessons, such as kindness, compassion, every moment in life, etc. If one is fed up with one’s life, the poet advises the person to go on a path that rejuvenates and refreshes his mind.

Analysis and Appreciation

The Poet: ‘Sunrise on the Hills’ is a poem by the American poet, HW Longfellow. It describes the poet’s experience on his visit to the hills at sunrise.

Theme: The theme of the poem is the healing power of nature.

Thoughts in the Poem: In the first stanza, the poet describes the beauty of nature at sunrise. In the second stanza, the poet describes the sounds and movements in the valley. In the end, the poet advises to return to nature for peace.

Figures of Speech:

a. Simile: Clouds are like defeated army.

b. Metaphor: Sun is compared to a soldier. The morning sky is compared to an arch. The mountain peaks are compared to shattered lance.

c. Oxymoron: Soft gales. Gale is very powerful wind. It is not soft. These two words are opposite in meaning. But the poet uses them together.

Imagery: The first stanza is full of visual images. The poet describes the sights. The second stanza is full of auditory and kinesthetic images. The poet describes the sounds and movements in the valley.
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Setting: The setting of the poem is the hills at sunrise.

Rhyme: The rhyme scheme of the poem is ‘aa, bb, cc’.

Language: The language of the poem is colourful.

Mood: It is a nature poem. It describes the beauty and power of nature.

Message: The message of the poem is ‘return to nature for peace’.


Questions and Answers of Sunrise on the

Hills (Read and Respond)


Question 1. Look at the expressions ‘heaven’s wide arch and ‘returning march’. What does the poet describe here? What else does it remind you of?
Answer: The sky and the return of the sun in the morning are described by the poet. In the same way, it remind me of a long-awaited return from a long trip, or even of my own wake-up from sleep.

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Question 2. Comment on the expression of ‘soft gales’.
Answer: This is a beautiful poetic description of the early morning breeze.

Question 2. What makes the glory of the clouds fade?
Answer: The rising sun casts a pall on the grandeur of the clouds. The mist dissipates and the glory dims.

Question 3. What are the clouds compared to?

Answer: The clouds are compared to the army defeated in battle, ready to flee from the conqueror.

Question 4. What picture of the valley is unveiled? Answer: The valley is rich. The river’s water is often gloomy by the shade of the forest, yet it glistens in the cascade. As the dawn gradually and smoothly transforms into morning, the bittern flies up in a spiral, making a noise.

Question 5. How does the valley respond to the rising sun?
Answer: The valley responds to the rising sun with vigour. The river’s water is rushing downstream, and currents twirl and flare. The trees in the forest are bending as though to touch the sea and the glittering sands of the lake’s beach. The valley is filled with the echoes of the screeching owl and the roaring horn. As the valley dwellers prepare their morning meals, thin smoke rises from the thick-leaved branches from their huts.

Question 6. What message does the poet convey?
Answer: In the poet’s words, if you are feeling worn out and burdened by troubles and sorrows that you would like to forget, if you would like to read a book that will keep your heart from losing hope and awaken your soul with optimism, head for the woods and the hills. When it comes to Nature’s wonderful smile, no amount of crying can lesen it.

Question 7. Are all the three stanzas of equal length? Why do you think the last stanza is short when compared to the previous stanzas?
Answer: No, the lengths of the three stanzas are not equal. The first stanza contains 18 lines, the second 12 lines, and the third merely 6 lines. The final stanza is shorter than the preceding ones since the poet is offering us advice in it. He describes the hills, valley, river, and lake, as well as the magnificent views and sounds, in the remaining two stanzas. They must, of course, be lengthier. A description may require several lines, but a piece of advise does not need to be as extensive.

Activity – II (Read and reflect)

Question 8. You may listen to the recital of the poem.

Now, discuss and answer the following questions:

Comment on the musical quality of the poem.
Answer: The poem is quite melodious. The rhyming couplets (archmarch, gales-vales, light-height, etc.) give the poem a particularly musical quality. The poem has a good rhythm since the stressed and unstressed syllables exchange on a regular basis. There is alliteration, which contributes to the musical quality. Alliteration examples are ‘blasted, bare,’ ‘faint and far,”sudden shot,’ and ‘from fainting.’ There are also several instances of assonance in the poetry, which makes it seem sweet: The poetry has a soothing impact on the ear since it sounds pleasant and beautiful.

Question 9. Identify the symbols used in the poem.
Answer: The poem contains multiple symbols. ‘Heaven’s wide arch,”returning march,”soft gales caressing the sun-clad vales,’ ‘hosts in battle overthrown,”shattered lance,’ ‘pine, blasted, bare and cleft,’ ‘the veil of cloud,’ and ‘woods bending with silent reach’ are some examples.

Question 10. How does figurative language, like the simile, make the poem effective?
Answer: Longfellow’s poem is impressive due to his use of various figures of speech. Among his figurative devices are simile, metaphor, personification, and onomatopoeia. He compares the clouds like “overthrown hosts in battle.” This is an excellent smile. “The sun’s returning mach” and “soft gales went forth to kiss the sun-clad vales” are good personifications. ‘Pinnacles thrusting up shattered lances’ and ‘The dark pine blasted, bare, and cleft’ include metaphors. ‘the whirl and flash of currents’ contains an excellent onomatopoeia.

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Activity – III (Appreciation)

Pick out the descriptions of sights, sounds and movements in the poem.

Question 11. Does any image stand out as the most important? Why do you think so?
Answer: The most significant image is that of the current whirling and flashing. I believe so because it embodies man’s ambition to discover and expand.

Question 12. What is your overall assessment of the poem?
Answer: The poem captures some of nature’s most mesmerising sights, sounds, and movements, and I think it does so superbly. Here Longfellow can stand contrast to William Wordsworth, the high priest of Nature.

Question 13. Based on the above discussions, prepare an appreciation of the poem.
Answer: The appreciation of the poem is given above.

Q. Discuss the theme of the poem.
Answer: The theme of the poem is the healing power of nature.The poem extols the beauty of Nature and how Nature may comfort you when you are in trouble or difficulty. When the sky is lovely with the rays of the rising sun, the poet stands on the hills. The forests have been lightened. Mild winds caress the valleys that have been lightened by the dawn. The clouds are showered in light and are beneath him. As the mist clears in the dawning sun, a slew of peaks with sharp spear-like projections emerge. He will soon glimpse the prosperous valley. The river is in motion.

Birds flutter away chirping noisily as light emerges into morning. The poet hears the rush of faraway waves. He notices the current whirl and shines in it. The lake is blue, with a sliver sand beach, and the dense forest nearby is bending as if to reach out and kiss the lake. The soft and melodic sound of the village bell echoes over the hills beyond the valley. The thin smoke begins to emerge from the wooded valley through the thickly leafed branches, from the valley dwellers’ huts.

If you are tired and troubled with problems and sorrows that you want to forget, if you want to read a book that will keep your heart from losing hope and will awaken your soul with optimism, the poet recommends going to the forest and hills. Nature’s gorgeous face is unaffected by tears of any kind.

The poet has utilised magnificent language to express nature’s sights, sounds, and movements. He has employed a variety of figures of speech to emphasise his arguments. The message is unequivocal. Get out in nature to forget about your emotions and problems. A beautiful sunrise can fill even the most pessimistic person with hope and confidence.

The poem is densely packed with visual, aural, and kinaesthetic elements. Longfellow is compared to the greatest nature poet of all time, William Wordsworth, in this poem. Wordsworth is referred to be the High Priest of Nature. The world today is full of difficulties, and one of the causes of these problems is our scorn for and disregard for nature. We are destroying nature’s beauty. Instead of rainforests full of trees, wild animals, and birds, we now have concrete jungles. Longfellow wishes for us to return to Nature and marvel at its magnificent sights, melodic sounds, and delicate movements.

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