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The Reaper and the Flowers by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


"The Reaper and the Flowers" is a poem that was written after Longfellow's wife had a miscarriage (which also resulted in her death). The child would have been his first. He felt deeply saddened by the entire event and didn't recover for several years. Longfellow also makes a reference to losing his wife with the two lines "She knew she should find them all again / In the fields of light above."

"The Reaper and the Flowers" consists of seven stanzas with four lines each for a total of 34 lines. Each stanza contains the rhyme scheme ABAB.


The Reaper and the Flowers

There is a Reaper, whose name is Death,
And, with his sickle keen,
He reaps the bearded grain at a breath,
And the flowers that grow between.

"Shall I have naught that is fair?" saith he;
"Have naught but the bearded grain?
Though the breath of these flowers is sweet to me,
I will give them all back again."

He gazed at the flowers with tearful eyes,
He kissed their drooping leaves;
It was for the Lord of Paradise
He bound them in his sheaves.

"My Lord has need of these flowerets gay,"
The Reaper said, and smiled;
"Dear tokens of the earth are they,
Where he was once a child.

"They shall all bloom in fields of light,
Transplanted by my care,
And saints, upon their garments white,
These sacred blossoms wear."

And the mother gave, in tears and pain,
The flowers she most did love;
She knew she should find them all again
In the fields of light above.

O, not in cruelty, not in wrath,
The Reaper came that day;
'T was an angel visited the green earth,
And took the flowers away.

Published in Voices of the Night in 1839.

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